Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2016. Park Pictures, Gettin’ Rad Productions. Screenplay by Chris Kelly. Cinematography by Brian Burgoyne. Produced by Sam Bisbee, Adam Scott, Naomi Scott. Music by Julian Wass. Production Design by Tracy Dishman. Costume Design by Kerry Hennessy. Film Editing by Patrick Colman. Independent Spirit Awards 2016. Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.
Aspiring television writer Jesse Plemons has returned home to be with his mother (Molly Shannon) for what will turn out to be the last year of her life after she has been diagnosed with cancer. He hasn’t achieved what he’s been after in his career, he hasn’t told his family that he broke up with his boyfriend since they were never all that cool about him coming out to begin with, and now he is plunged back into the world of his painful adolescence and a lot of old friends and neighbours to go with it. Watching his mother decline while he has to deal with his fraught relationship with his father (Bradley Whitford) sounds like the worst cliches of American independent filmmaking combined in one, but writer/director Chris Kelly puts the emphasis on comedy for a film that is bright and charismatic at even its saddest moments. Shannon has scenes of pure suffering that she doesn’t quite pull off, the work shows a bit in these moments, and it’s a lot to buy her as the kind of mom would have ever been anything but cool about a gay son (the part was originally supposed to be played by Sissy Spacek), but her funny, perfectly timed interactions with both Plemons and Whtiford are the result for all her years of brilliant work in smaller, less rewarding roles.