Talk about surprises. There is nothing about the setup to this story that is going to scream: Watch me! But, damned if it isn’t entirely compelling and poignant on both a character and commentary level. In one of her first attempts at screen direction, Shira Piven made magic out of Eliot Laurence’s first movie script. Much like Infinitely Polar Bear or The Lady in the Van, the mental illness aspect of the story is handled with extreme love and understanding without ignoring the issue. And, in the process, they manage to skewer the modern, self-obsessed culture of selfies and vlogs while creating an entirely personal and touching story.
Certainly Piven’s guidance kept this all on track, but she also cast it incredibly well. From Kristin Wiig (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) in the lead, whose comedic and self-deprecating approach carried a painful honesty, to Tim Robbins as the open and caring, but professional shrink. In between, the piece is balanced with controlled performances by Linda Cardinelli (Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Wes Bentley (The Final GIrl), with support by James Marsden (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Joan Cusack (Freaks of Nature), Alan Tudyk (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight). There isn’t a character, large or small, that isn’t fully realized.
Honestly, this entire venture should have failed utterly, but instead it soars… yes, like a swan. I had heard good things about this dramedy, but the description had put me off. Don’t let it dissuade you, just dive in and be entertained by its quiet joy and painful truths. You will smile and laugh, and you will end it feeling a sense of control and power in your life.