Triumph of the Ill

Keaton and Streep straighten up melodramatic Marvin's Room

McPherson is lobbing an old chestnut here: The soulless career woman who is brought to a reckoning by the motherly caregiver. The dying, childless Bessie is untainted by ambition, while Lee--who has the good health and the children--is isolated in her worldly unhappiness. There's something archaic and punitive about this. Imagine, for example, how this saint-and-sinner scenario would be overturned if Lee had found fulfillment in her life, in her career. But the life-affirming lessons in Marvin's Room all run one way: Lee learns from Bessie how to care, but Bessie doesn't learn much from Lee. She doesn't need to. She's pretty damn near perfect.

Bessie, in all her perfection, is like a fantasy figure both of how to endure and of how to provide. McPherson, who died of AIDS complications, must surely have had AIDS in mind while writing Marvin's Room. Bessie's predicament carries metaphorical weight; so does her selflessness. Whether we are afflicted or tending to the afflicted, this angel of mercy represents how we would all like to be.

The character of Bessie is a risky conception for a playwright to pull off. Pure goodness grates. But the right actress can make goodness compelling--transcendent, even. The people who made this film made a lot of wrong turns, but they made one turn so magically right that it took them straight into the marrow of their art. Marvin's Room is anointed by Diane Keaton.

Marvin's Room
Directed by Jerry Zaks; with Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Rated

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
 

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Box Office Report

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!

Loading...