Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1999. , Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the book by Mona Simpson. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Produced by Laurence Mark. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Donald Graham Burt. Costume Design by Betsy Heimann. Film Editing by Nicholas C. Smith. Golden Globe Awards 1999. Toronto International Film Festival 1999.
The presence of at least one happy scene would have done much for this overly melodramatic film about a young woman (Natalie Portman) being dragged across the country by her ambitious and, she thinks, selfish mother (Susan Sarandon). The performances by the two ladies couldn’t be better, but Wayne Wang’s direction is so intent on making the film as depressing as possible it’s almost as if he’s daring you to enjoy it. In contrast, Tumbleweeds starring Janet McTeer is a similarly-themed film that succeeds so much better thanks to its reliance on humour and a more believable presentation of this kind of troubled relationship. Sarandon truly is amazing, though, and thanks to her strengths the film gets away with more than it should. Excellent supporting performances by Caroline Aaron and Hart Bochner, plus a cameo appearance by Megan Mullally.