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Diane Movie Review

Mary Kay Place Shines in 'Diane'


There's such joy in watching long-established character actors, who've given strong, reliable performances over the course of an extensive career, come into focus as the lead in a movie. "Diane" gives Mary Kay Place an opportunity to inhabit the eponymous character and breathe life into the role.


Most of "Diane" is simple and straightforward, which is rarely a bad thing, and it presents a quiet drama about a woman's day-to-day life. Diane (Place) spends her days checking in on everyone else and rarely worrying about herself, which keeps her busy. In the late stages of her life she seems content enough - if not always overly happy - with just that. Diane volunteers at a homeless shelter with her closest friend Bobbi (the always wonderful Andrea Martin), spends time visiting her dying cousin Donna (Deirdre O'Connell) in the hospital, and checking in on her mother ("Bonnie and Clyde" Oscar winner Estelle Parsons) and other relatives.

One of the stops in her daily routine is to check in on her son Brian (Jake Lacy), an addict who swears he is clean, but mother's intuition knows better. Every time Diane walks into his apartment, she expects the worst but is often greeted with disdain and impatience from her son. She's heartbroken by his agitation toward her but is always relieved to know he's alive. We learn a lot about Diane's past, which suggests she might not have always been the kind and caring woman she became. Accordingly, Brian holds on to a significant amount of resentment towards his mother, hurling insults and harsh names in her direction.

"Diane" is the feature debut of documentarian Kent Jones, who shows a clear eye for character. Here he has built an everyday person, who has been through a lifetime of ups and downs, and allows his lead performer to find ways to move within and bring her off the page. The majority of the film lies within Place's performance, which is always compelling to watch, even at its most subtle. Jones' screenplay loses traction in the final act, when narrative leaps are taken without much connective tissue to get us there. The finale feels hurried, when most things before it felt so natural, but Place remains our forever tour guide through this woman's journey.




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