Marvin's Room (1996)
Dir: Jerry Zaks (Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond)
Play & Screenplay: Scott McPherson
Starring: Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Gwen Verdon
Synopsis: "A leukemia patient attempts to end a twenty-year feud with her sister to get her bone marrow."
First off, I have to get something off my chest: I have never liked Diane Keaton. I don't know why. She just reminds me of that nice but creepy adult friend your parents would make you hug at parties who smells like cigarettes and perfume and even though she's always way too nice to you she creeps you out because some older kid told you once that she ate her cat or killed her ex-husband or something. I JUST DON'T SEE WHY EVERYONE FINDS HER SO GODDAMN CHARMING.
That being said, she is pretty fucking charming in this movie, even though she's dying of cancer.
Real Quick Recap!
- We begin with two sisters: Diane is a doting caretaker for her aunt (Gwen Verdon) and her bedridden, dementia-plagued father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn). Also I'm just gonna rip this bandaid off real quick: Marvin has NO LINES IN THE MOVIE and also you're BARELY EVER IN HIS ROOM. I don't get the title :(
- Meryl is a sassy hairdresser and a super shitty mom, as seen by A Very Adorable Young Leo DiCaprio LIGHTING THEIR FUCKING HOUSE ON FIRE??!?!??!
- Must interject here: Is it just me, or does Young Leo make, like, a SUPER ADORABLE LESBIAN?? I CAN'T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THIS.
- Anyway, Meryl is dealing with her PSYCHOTIC(ally hot lesbian) son, Leo, while Diane Keaton is finding out that SHE HAS LEUKEMIA
- The weirdly funny (??) doctor, ROBERT DE NIRO, tells Diane to contact her family to see if she has any bone marrow matches
- Meryl takes Leo out of the Psych Ward/Juvie to take him and her youngest son on a road trip to Florida to see if any of them are matches for Diane
- Meryl and Diane haven't seen each other in like 20 years, because Diane stopped talking to her after Meryl left the second Dad got sick
- Leo is being A Very Difficult Teenager, but for some reason, Diane is good with him
- Probably because she's So Fucking Charming
- They go on a drive on the beach together, and Leo makes damn near drives the car into the ocean but it makes Diane ~laugh~ again, which is the best medicine
- Except it's not the best medicine at CURING CANCER, which Diane still has, and Leo is being a total butthead and refuses to get tested to see if he's a match
- Meryl and her youngest son are not a match, so it's kind of a big deal
- Diane confronts Leo about his compulsive lying (and stealing and burning of things) and Leo's like SHUT UP YOU'RE THE LIAR I DON'T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT
- Leo is also Very Angry with Meryl for "MAKING DAD LEAVE" oh shut up Leo
- Meryl breaks down (at Disney World, lol) and tells Leo that the reason she kicked Dad out was because he was FUCKING BEATING LEO and Leo's like NO HE WASN'T UR LYING I WOULD REMEMBER but you know he knows
- Leo finally decides to get the Cancer Test
- Leo is not a match
- Meryl & Diane finally talk and bond a tiny bit
- They decide to stay in Florida anyway
- And like... that's it??
- The end???
Not a #banger, not a #bummer, not really... anything? Like kind of just a super dull movie, and frankly Meryl is barely in it.
I will say, however, that as ALWAYS: Meryl is SO GOOD AT BEING A BITCH. She played the kind of mother you fucking recognize... stained leggings, her kid's oversized t-shirt, chain smoking Pall Mall's outside a Walgreen's, screaming on her cell phone about how she got evicted AGAIN and it's NOT HER FAULT. Actually, best line in the movie 100% goes to:
Psych Ward Nurse: How have things been at home?
Meryl: Hard, really hard, he's such an asshole.
Psych Ward Nurse: How so?
Meryl: Well, like, he totally made my last boyfriend break up with me. Just because he was always making fun of his house arrest anklet, and his hair line, and the fact that he drove a Ford Pinto. He cost me what could've been a really great relationship!
Truthfully, Meryl's character is unintentionally hilarious, and her performance was, as always, obnoxiously good. In the last bracket I spoke about "status" as an actor: I fucking LOVE watching High Status actors play really low-class people, and that's what we get here. It was actually sort of reminiscent of her character/performance in "August: Osage County," that kind of white trash bitch of a mother who FULLY believes in her power and FULLY believes that everyone else believes in it too. Even in a totally forgettable, underwhelming movie, it was fun to watch.
One True Thing (1998)
Dir: Carl Franklin (The A Team, Alf, Roseanne)
Wri: Anna Quindlen (novel), Karen Croner (screenplay)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, William Hurt
Synopsis: "A career woman reassesses her parents' lives after she is forced to care for her cancer-stricken mother."
THE CANCER BRACKET CONTINUES.
I have iterated previously that while I chose the original brackets to be as "fair a fight" as possible, I intentionally did not do TOO much research on them. I have already been pleasantly surprised with just how amusingly well-paired some of the more surprising pairs have been: "Dancing at Lughnasa" v. "Devil Wears Prada," for example, turned out to be the perfect match of Mega-Bitches. And while this obviously The Cancer Bracket, these two films COULD NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT, and it was admittedly fun to watch them back to back.
Meryl was a magnificent bitch and world class shitty mother in "Marvin's Room," and DAMN can she do a 180° for "One True Thing."
Real Quick Recap!
- Renee Zellweger (remember her?) is a Fancy New York Business Lady who wants to grow up and be a writer just like her daddy, William Hurt
- She has to take the train out of Manhattan for Will's surprise birthday party, being secretly thrown by his saccharine-sweet, doting housewife, Meryl Streep
- Renee obviously does NOT like her mom, thinks she "settled" for "the suburban lifestyle," blah blah blah
- Renee desperately wants daddy Will to read her new article, get his approval, blah blah blah
- Right before she goes back to NYC, Will tells Renee that Meryl is apparently very sick?? And he needs her to MOVE BACK HOME PERMANENTLY TO TAKE CARE OF HER. Like he just drops it SO CASUALLY. Like yeah, you have to, because I'm a ~tenured professor~ and your brother is ~finishing school~ (which he's not, he told Renee secretly that he dropped out). Like okay, cool, thanks Will, nice to know what fucking century you're living in.
- Naturally, Renee has a hard time ~adapting~ to domestic lifestyle
- So Renee totally looks down on Meryl and her sad little homemakery hobbies, but she keeps catching these glimpses of just HOW FUCKING MUCH Meryl actually does: like driving for 3 hours to go shopping with her friend who's been bedridden with depression, or organizing the Halloween Fair for the ENTIRE FUCKING TOWN, or cooking her disappointing husband a 3 course goddamn dinner every night.
- Renee also keeps trying to get her Fancy New York article edited by her father, but he's always busy, so she just drops by the college he works at unannounced and accidentally learns that WILL IS KIND OF A HUGE GROSS PERV and 100% the "sexy professor" that sleeps with all the hot young english students
- i.e. totally my type
- just kidding
- actually I'm not
- wish I was though :-/
- ANYWAYS Renee is VERY UPSET and it's made even worse when she overhears some of the students quoting his obnoxious, patronizing idioms and realizes that it's the same shit he's said to her before about her writing. What a bummer.
- So basically Renee, a the TENDER YOUNG AGE of like THIRTY-TWO, FINALLY REALIZES that HER FATHER IS A FLAWED MAN AND NOT AT ALL PERFECT
- Naturally, this RUINS HER GODDAMN LIFE, and frankly it's a LITTLE FUCKING ANNOYING
- I have no patience for people who take until ADULTHOOD to realize that their parents are REAL FUCKING PEOPLE and will LET THEM DOWN and then act fucking SCANDALIZED like their world is falling apart. Grow UP sweetie. And stop calling your father "daddy," you're a Fancy New York Business Lady, start ACTING LIKE IT
- Meryl is LEGIT DYING NOW and it's REALLY HARD TO WATCH
- Will has emotionally checked out, and it's up to Renee to do fucking everything, which is apparently just A Woman's job now
- Meryl knows she's dying, and before she does, she gives this VERY INTENSE MONOLOGUE that honestly saved an otherwise pretty superficial/cheesy movie. Seriously, it's fucking ROUGH, but I'm a big fan of letting good actors prove they can handle on an onscreen monologue, and we all fucking know Meryl can:
- So eventually, after much prolonged and difficult onscreen dying (and a bunch of boring main-plot shit with Renee and her Fancy New York job, blah blah blah), Meryl asks Renee to HELP HER DIE
- Renee tries to put the morphine pills in the tapioca pudding, but she can't do it.
- Eventually, Meryl dies. :(
- There's been this through-line of cutting to Renee being interviewed by some "detective" or something? Basically he's asking her about THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO MERYL'S DEATH as if there may have been some sort of ~ foul play ~
- We learn that Meryl died of... wait for it... A MORPHINE OVERDOSE
- But it wasn't Renee??
- Renee assumes it was her father, whom she has stopped seeing after Meryl's death, now that she's back in New York City with a new Fancy New York City Job
- Then one day, they meet at Meryl's grave and Will is like "um hey sorry awkward but thanks for killing meryl?" and Renee is like "say WHAAAAAAAAT i thought U killed her???" and then Will VERY unceremoniously says "it must have been HER... she was the only one who had the strength to do it... she had it in her all along."
- Like ok, Meryl had the strength to KILL HERSELF inside her all along???
- They just built up WAY too much to ~ how ~ Meryl died and that it ~ may ~ have been suicide when really the point of the story was how Renee is grappling with how fucking STRONG Meryl was this whole time.
Which brings us to the most important part: MERYL'S GODDAMNED PERFORMANCE. Once again, credit goes to Meryl for literally taking the audience on Renee's emotional journey: at first, Meryl is pretty fucking annoying. I mean, at her husband's surprise birthday party - where everyone is supposed to come dressed as their favorite literary character - Meryl comes dressed as DOROTHY. Like, okay, we get it Meryl, you're fucking adorable, shut up. She's just SO sunny and bright and frankly, it comes across as dull and uneducated. Then we see just how MUCH Meryl puts up with, and how much Meryl gives, and that monologue is the fucking LYNCH PIN into how secretly STRONG she has been the whole time.
AND LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, SHE DOES IT ALL WITHOUT BEING SHRILL.
And so, the winner of ~ The Cancer Bracket ~ is...
"ONE TRUE THING"