Saturday, 3 April 2010

I'm Just Mad 'Cause I Suck.

And she does! It's true. The title for this post was almost 'I'll Suck Your Dick If You Give Me The Job I Want', but I decided against it... instead putting it in the opening paragraph. Yeah!

Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who we love, remember) is the reformed addict of the title, SherryBaby, fresh out of prison and on a curfew, moving into a halfway house filled with other women in similar situations. All she wants is her baby, Alexis (Ryan Simpkins - seriously, are the Simpkins' the new Fannings? This is the fourth film after Revolutionary Road, Little Children and A Single Man that one or both have been in) back, who is currently living with her brother, Bobby (Brad William Henke) and his wife Lynette (Bridget Barkan.) Bobby is happy that Sherry is out, but Lynette is less than pleased, especially when Sherry, in anger and frustration at the halfway house and those who living inside it, decides to decamp to their place in New Jersey. Bobby's rule is that there are to be no drugs in the house, but Lynette just wants her gone, and isn't afraid to turn Alexis against her mother.

Sherry and Bobby's father Bob Sr (Sam Bottoms) visits with his new wife and they give Sherry a drink, not realising that all addiction is her problem, not just the heroin they recognise. Sherry gets emotional but while being comforted by her father he touches her breast - Sherry, not apparently upset by this, but by everything in general, leaves and goes out to score. She uses before turning up to her AA meeting under the influence, helped by her friend Dean (Danny Trejo), who takes her home and helps her to clean up. Meanwhile, Sherry has moved out of her brother's house and into a motel, where her parole office visits. She confesses she has been using, and pleads for outpatient rehab treatment - she is told that her only options are inpatient or jail. He gives her the weekend to decide, and she takes Alexis on a mini-golfing bonding trip, only to take her over the border on her way to escaping to Florida - though she never makes it all the way.

Gyllenhaal's performance is powerful in a movie that is otherwise only a little better than average. As the conflicted, addicted mother she turns a treat, over the top and attention craving as you can see that her weakness is still very much there, not really hidden under the surface, instead gripping her powerfully in its claws as she badly tries to ignore it. You can see that her only real desire to get clean is to stay with her daughter. Being clean in itself doesn't overly appeal to her - she hasn't been rehabilitated to that extent - and if Alexis weren't around I'm sure she would have been back on the dope much faster than it took for her to finally succumb. But Alexis is a powerful incentive - though not immediately powerful enough.

Henke is very good as her long-suffering but devoted brother, showing her uncompromising love and support despite how much she has screwed up in the past. His love for Alexis as his own is touching, and his ability to calmly ignore the protestations of his spouse in favour of the blood relationship never offends Lynette. He manages to respect his wife without alienating his sister, and Henke is in a big way responsible for this split.

The remainder of the supports are small roles that are pulled off perfectly fine. The film itself, however, seems to kind of travel along quietly without really seeming to get somewhere. As a portrait of addiction and desire it works fine, but without any redemption or closure it just feels a little hollow. In the end, it ends up feeling a bit empty, unfinished. But for debut writer/director Laurie Collyer, it's a reasonably good start. I'm sure she has a lot left in her. 3 stars.

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