Thursday, April 11, 2019

For some, the ennui of everyday life

For some people, life is never quite fulfilling enough. You try and you try and you try but heartache seems to be around every bend, a metaphor in the movie Diane, directed by Kent Jones, opening Friday at the Main Art Theatre. Diane, a woman in her early 70s, is forever driving from one place to another, and the film uses scenes from the front window of her car as she rounds bends in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Most of the time the sky is gray and the scenes of what are normally a beautiful region are dreary in the early winter gloom countryside and downtrodden working-class streets of towns like Pittsfield. Diane is played by Mary Kay Place, whom we normally think of as an offbeat comedian dating back to her role as Mary Hartman’s best friend in the hit 1970s classic Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Thought she’s had a varied and continuing career since then I must confess the last roles I well remember her in was as Meg in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 The Big Chill and as Rona in Brett Haley’s 2015 I’ll See You in My Dreams. In Diane the focus is squarely on her, as she portrays a lower-class single mother, with a drug addicted adult son, Brian (Jake Lacy), and a circle of friends who are nearing the age of no return. In fact, three of them die during the short period, around Christmas, when the story is set. Diane’s life is ho hum and no different from numerous nondescript lower to middle class women just trying to get by in a world where there is often little to cheer about. She constantly fights with Brian, even when he converts to Evangelical Christianity. Her dying best friend Donna (Deirdre O’Connell), still accuses her of betrayal for stealing her boyfriend that long-ago summer on Cape Cod. Meanwhile, Diane tries to do what she can. She brings food to friends and volunteers at a soup kitchen. But a kind of depressing ennui nags her - ”I’ve done some damage in my life” - and she eventually seeks solace in what may or may not be a personal salvation. Place is up to the task in this character study, where the camera is on her in almost every scene. The film is an ensemble of mostly women including Andrea Martin as Bobbie and Estelle Parsons as Mary. This is not an uplifting film, and there is seemingly no redemption for any of the characters. This is just about life as it sometimes is, and that’s all.

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