Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The verdict: A dark melodramatic tale of family ties and difficult lives, but without an awful lot to say. Maggie Gyllenhall is great, but the movie is mediocre.

The rating: 6/10

Don't get me wrong, I do like a good depressing melodrama every now and again. (Call me old fashioned!). Mike Leigh's 'Secrets and Lies', or possibly Darren Arronofsky's 'Requiem for a Dream' both spring to mind as real gems, but also properly harrowing.

These are not movies to casually throw on after a few pints, because they demand the audience be in the right frame of mind, mainly to avoid being reduced to weeping on the couch in the foetal position within half an hour. 'Sherrybaby' is in certainly in the same ballpark as those I've previously mentioned, but unfortunately doesn't even approach the same level of quality.

Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhall) is released from prison, two and a half years clean of heroin, and attempts to renew contact with a daughter she hardly knows. ... Yes folks, it's that kind of movie. (Jeez, you didn't fancy 'Knocked Up' then!? - Ed).

The plot follows Sherry as she attempts to build her life in the weeks after her release, struggling with addiction, family, and trying to do the right thing. Unfotunately, her background, though it appears rosy from the outside looking in, is anything but, and gradually more details are revealed about Sherry's past that explain why she is in the position she is in today.

Laurie Collyer wrote and directed this one, and the main point of interest in relation to the script is the prevalence of the female perspective in almost every scene. Particularly in her scenes with her daughter (Lexy), and also in the scenes with her sister in law, who has been raising her, I got the impression that the dialogue could not have been crafted by a bloke. There was much more unspoken dialogue than spoken, if that makes sense, and this adds to the realism, a definite plus point.

The thing is though, after sitting through Sherry's tough experiences and difficult times, I'm not really sure what I took away from this movie. In 'Transamerica', another drama told from a female (well, sort of) perspective, I had the impression that, if there was a point to be made, then I might have 'got it'. With Sherrybaby, I was left a little cold. Perhaps Sherry's situation was inevitable all along? Did she learn not to be so selfish and put other people's needs before her own, despite all the horrible stuff she had been through? The evidence on screen is inconclusive at best.

It's well acted, and very well written, but ultimately a standout lead performance does not always a great movie make. There are exceptions of course ('The Last King of Scotland') but Sherrybaby ain't it. I wouldn't run a mile from it, but it's only for die hard Maggie Gyllenhall fans, or possibly only those with a passing interest who just want to see her breasts a few times.

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