Jul 17, 2019
Welcome back for our third Certified Fresh film this week, this time from IFC Films, one of our favorites here at One Movie Punch. We haven’t reviewed many of their films, which we should definitely remedy, but for a few other films from IFC, check out “The Thin Blue Line” (Episode #021), “Into The Abyss” (Episode #053), and Mike Bales’ review for “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (Episode #317). If you have any recent suggestions from IFC Films, let us know!
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Diane”, the IFC Films drama written and directed by Kent Jones. The film follows Diane (Mary Kay Place), who has spent her life reaching out to her drug-addicted son, and filling that void by helping others. However, when both parts of her life start to lose their hold over her, she finds herself considering her past in difficult ways.
It’s our third character study this week, a fact I only began to realize somewhere between writing the review for yesterday’s episode and watching today’s film. It was by no means intentional, and in some strange ways, I like the stark differences in each character. Monday’s episode for “The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot” (Episode #533) featured a slightly satirical, slightly surrealistic look at the honorable alpha male character in the lead played by Sam Elliott. “Woman At War” (Episode #534) featured a definitely satirical, definitely surrealistic look at the ecoterrorist or ecowarrior, whichever term suits your fancy.
But “Diane” is definitely not satirical or surrealistic, aside from a couple dream sequences. Instead, “Diane” is a very realistic look at aging, how one finds meaning in life, and the patterns and habits we adopt in the process. Rather than having a straightforward narrative, we’re brought directly into Diane’s life, learning about her character through her actions, and making many assumptions that are delightfully upended throughout the film.
Mary Kay Place is impressive as Diane. Much like Sam Elliott, Mary Kay Place has had an extensive and wide-ranging career, playing multiple roles over forty-six years, glimmers of which appear throughout the film as we learn more about Diane. We’re presented with an overly-protective mother concerned with her drug addicted son, active in her church community, and doing her best to deal with her cousin dying of cervical cancer. It seems like a regular suburban existence for the older generation, and this is but the first of many assumptions to be challenged, especially as we get to know the characters around her.
Diane moves between her son and her cousin, caring unceasingly for each of them. They suffer in different ways, one through disease, the other through opioid addiction, but both conditions are slowly killing them and cause them to live in immense pain when not medicated. Diane is actually feeding off both people, living in her own kind of pain, caused by her addiction to helping her son and trying to come to terms with a hidden past, both of which are slowly killing her. And soon, both problems are resolved, leaving a huge void in her life and the inevitable struggle for meaning in that void.
In this void, however, we are also given more insight into Diane’s previous life, and most importantly the sins of her past, which affected both her cousin and her son, in different but connected ways. We’re also treated to more artistic direction and editing, as Diane herself is attempting to find the creative part of her life again, even while struggling with the effects of aging in big and small ways. The director takes more chances as Diane takes more chances. Each turn in the last half of the film forces us to reassess Diane, and the people around her, and in some ways, our cultural notions of our more puritan elders. It’s not something you can really understand until you reach that age. It’s only something I’m beginning to understand at forty, but it’s clear it is something that Mary Kay Place understands and delivers.
“Diane” is a moving study of the titular character, expertly performed by Mary Kay Place, and well composed, written and directed by Kent Jones. It’s not a feel-good story, but it does feel true, and is sure to make you feel that truth as well. Fans of character studies of aging characters will enjoy this film, and apparently the other two films so far this week. Everyone else, be prepared for a more depressive, reflective film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 86 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 8.8/10
“Diane” (2018) is not rated and is currently playing on Hulu.