Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Death & Grief & Getting-On: Oyelowo & Wiest grace Maris Curran's FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE

What a fine actor is David Oyelowo! If you've never seen The Paperboy, do -- if only for Oyelowo's great work (there are plenty more reasons to see this eye-popping film, as well). The actor gets another chance to shine in the new mini-movie, FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE, in which he stars, along with Dianne Wiest, as, respectively, the husband and mother of a recently deceased young woman. Oyelowo was also great in last year's HBO movie Nightingale, even if the film itself was somewhat lacking. And of course he was good as MLK in last year's Selma, too.

Now that he's reached star status, we'll hope to see Oyelowo (above and below) gravitate to smaller movies with larger roles, each of which he'll fill out in fine form. So it is here, in this new film written and directed by Maris Curran (shown at right). This is Curran's second film but the first to get a theatrical release. It is a very small movie made up of quiet, individual scenes that work together to (almost) form a story: Suffering from grief, the widower treks from New York City to Maine to visit for the first time that mother -- difficult, demanding and estranged from her daughter, even prior to the young woman's untimely death.

That's it. And while Ms Curran neatly avoids anything close to melodrama, she also, unfortunately, avoids most of the drama we might expect here, even though her cast -- which includes a very subdued Rosie Perez (below) in the role of the housekeeper/helper (mom has terminal cancer, you see) -- does a terrific job, moment to moment, throughout this 82-minute movie.

The acting here could hardly be bettered, and the writing is OK, too: the dialog sounds believable and genuine, if occasionally a little too prosaic. Though we're gifted with a few scenes of anger and hurt that keep the drama flowing, and though we come to know, interestingly enough, quite a bit more about the late wife, who seems key to the happiness of both hubby and mom, we learn very little about either of the two remaining characters. We want more of them than we get, and this is where the drama falters. Or, rather, goes missing.

The talented Ms Wiest, above and below, seems to have lost some weight since I've last seen her, so I hope she is fit and healthy. Here, she pulls from her arsenal of anger, pain and loss rather than from the humorous, scattered, flibbertigibbet array she sometimes uses. Either way, she gets the job done beautifully.

Five Nights in Maine is fine, so far as it goes. But many audiences, I fear (TrustMovies among them) will wish it had gone further. The movie -- from FilmRise -- opens this Friday, August 5, in a dozen cities throughout the country. In New York City, it plays the Village East Cinema; in Los Angeles, you can see it at Laemmle's Music Hall. Click here then scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates,cities and theaters. (Come September, the movie will even hit Maine!.)

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