Thursday, April 26, 2018

Talking Tribeca: Diane

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

Directed by Kent Jones
U.S. Narrative Competition

Sports stars retire early since their best years are when they’re young, strong, and active. Acting isn’t the same in that performers of all ages can still get roles, though there’s definitely a tendency for films and TV shows to feature appealing, attractive performers who usually slant young. There are many documented instances of a preposterous gender gap between older male leads and their female co-stars, and it’s rare to see a film anchored by an actress in her seventies that truly tells just her story.

Mary Kay Place stars in the film

Diane (Mary Kay Place) is the definition of selfless. The Massachusetts widow drives around each day, visiting her ailing cousin (Deidre O’Connell), serving food to the homeless, and trying to make sure her drug-addicted adult son Brian (Jake Lacy) doesn’t end up dead. She eats at a buffet with her friend Bobbie (Andrea Martin) for the conversation alone, the one chance she gets to process what she’s experiencing and just how much she’s doing for everyone else in her life. Her connection to older family members, including two endearing aunts (Estelle Parsons and Phyllis Somerville) is strong, but she knows that they won’t live forever, and eventually everyone she holds dear will be gone.

Director Kent Jones discusses the film

“Diane” marks the narrative feature debut of Kent Jones, best known as a festival programmer who moderates many discussions with filmmakers at the New York Film Festival. This fiction film serves as a tremendous showcase for the exceptional Place, the actress he says he always envisioned in the lead role, and allows superb screen time for a number of older, esteemed actresses, with Lacy serving as the sole representative of a younger generation. This is a worthwhile population to spotlight and Diane is an immensely relatable character, giving so much of herself in part because she’s had a chance to live her life but also because she cares deeply and unselfishly, even for those, like her son, who are far from grateful.

Mary Kay Place and Jake Lucy discuss the film

Diane is a strong character, and having her anchor a film isn’t what’s problematic her. This is a story that becomes progressively less interesting as it continues, frontloading the relationships that prove most worthwhile and watchable. As it goes on, its momentum diminishes, and it feels like an aimless journey with only Diane there to try to save it. Jones is a skilled film historian and expert, but this film doesn’t demonstrate the kind of mastery he clearly has. His star is talented and deserving of a vehicle like this, but this film falls flat and loses steam long before its eventual end.


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