September 7, 2006

You're My Baby, Don't Mean Maybe


A few weeks ago Cinecultist caught an advance screening of Sherrybaby at Makor, and we've been mulling over Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance ever since.

As the former drug addict and struggling single mother, Sherry, Gyllenhaal does amazing work fully inhabiting a complex and not very likable character. Sherry's like a little child herself, she wants everything to happen right now and she constantly feels persecuted. She longs to turn her life around, attending AA meetings, getting a job at a day care and reconnecting with her family who's been caring for her daughter while she was in jail. Except that every move she makes towards being a straight citizen, Gyllenhaal makes seem like its most painful act in the world.

Writer and director Laura Collyer does that thing which seems so elusive to the rest of mainstream Hollywood—she crafts a believable female character. You wouldn't think that'd be such an amazing feat, what with many women producers, directors and writers hard at work in the biz. But Gyllenhaal and Collyer are surprisingly brave to construct such an unlikable, yet intensely compelling young woman. Not to give too much away but Sherry never met a bad decision she didn't like and there are moments as the film wears on where you want to slink down in the seat and cover your eyes as she stumbles yet again. But this after all, is what good character driven drama is about and Sherrybaby is a real delight to see after the string of summer's cookie-cutter plots.

Cinecultist is happy to say, here's a smaller flick worth checking out and it's a sweet vindication for all of us who've loved Gyllenhaal, despite being not just a little bit overexposed after Secretary.

Posted by karen at September 7, 2006 4:35 PM