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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marvin's Room (1996)

A spinster (Diane Keaton) living in Florida, who is the caretaker for her bedridden father (Hume Cronyn) and her dotty Aunt (Gwen Verdon), is diagnosed with leukemia. She contacts her estranged sister (Meryl Streep) in Ohio who she hasn't seen in almost 20 years because she needs a bone marrow transplant. The sister arrives with her two sons, the oldest (Leonardo DiCaprio) on leave from a mental hospital for burning down their house. Based on the award winning play by Scott McPherson (who gets the sole screenplay credit although he died 4 years before the movie came out), the material is ripe for sentimentality and tears but the director Jerry Zaks and his expert cast of actors don't go there. It's a tightly knit piece of work and if it sometimes veers toward Lifetime movie, it respects its audience. As the leukemia stricken sister, Diane Keaton gives one of her 4 or 5 very best performances here. Streep, as if instinctively sensing this is Keaton's movie, keeps lobbing the ball in her direction. With Robert De Niro, Kelly Ripa, Cynthia Nixon, Margo Martindale, Dan Hedaya and Hal Scardino.

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