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Laramie Movie Scope: What They Had

Dysfunctional families deal badly with crises

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 2, 2018 – A son and daughter, along with their parents all have relationships that are dysfunctional, together and separately, in this drama. It features characters who aren't appealing, separately, or as a group. These are not people you'd want to spend time with at a party, or at a movie theater.

Hilary Swank stars as Bridget, the dutiful daughter in a loveless marriage, who comes flying across the country from California, with a daughter, Emma (played by Taissa Farmiga of “The Nun”) who seems to hate her, to come to the aid of her mother, Ruth (Blythe Danner of “Paul”) who has wandered off in the middle of a cold Chicago night. Bridget's father, Burt (Robert Forster of “Olympus Has Fallen”) is desperate to find his wife, and he finally does, without his children's help. He is angry that his son, Nick (Michael Shannon of “The Shape of Water”) asked for Bridget's help.

This drama is about how this family will deal with Ruth's dementia, and other problems. You might be able to spot some of the problems with this story, just from the brief description above. The story is further complicated by the fact that Emma wants to drop out of college, Bridget's marriage is on the rocks, and Nick's own relationship with his girlfriend has gone bad. His business isn't doing to well either.

Everybody in this family is mad at everyone else all the time, except for Ruth, who is pretty much out of it. Bridget has power of attorney over her mother and Nick wants her to put Ruth into an extended care facility, a memory center, over the objections of Burt, who insists he can handle things on his own. Bridget, who has always done what her father wants, is reluctant to use her power to force the issue.

Everyone in this family is looking for somebody to blame for their troubles, and the man most often blamed is the patriarch, Burt. The trouble with this is that Burt doesn't come across as a bad guy. Nick comes across as a bad guy, but he is really not. He's just brutally honest. He sees things as they are and tells it like it is. Bridget, Burt and Emma are all overwhelmed by family obligations, only Nick has more or less managed to break free to live life on his own terms.

This movie is very bleak for the most part, and none of the characters is very appealing, but the film ends on a bit of an up note, so it isn't totally depressing. That is not enough, however, for me to recommend it. This is not the fault of the actors, particularly Swank, Forster and Shannon, who all turn in strong performances. The problems with this movie lie primarily with the screenplay. The story isn't believable and it tries to deal with too many issues at once. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]