(director/writer: Tamara Jenkins; cinematographer: Christos Voudouris; editor: Brian A. Kates; cast: Kathryn Hahn (Rachel Biegler), Paul Giamatti (Richard Grimes), Kayli Carter (Sadie Barrett), John Carroll Lynch(Dr. Charlie Grimes), Molly Shannon (Cynthia Grimes, mother), Denis O’Hare (Dr.Dordick), Emily Robinson (Charlotte Grimes), Desmin Borges (Sam), Francesca Root-Dodson (Fiona), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Beth); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tamara Jenkins/Stefanie Azpiazu/Anthony Bregman; Netflix; 2018)
“Despite its flaws it’s a masterfully acted and a smart indie adult film, a mature comedy that rarely gets made anymore by the business-minded big studios.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A bittersweet and complex character-driven dramedy about turmoil in a couple’s life, that’s perhaps too cleverly written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (“The Savages“/”Slums of Beverly Hills“).
It’s her first film in eleven years, and is about the frantic relationship between the fortysomething married arty-bourgeois East Village city dwellers Rachel Biegler (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard Grimes (Paul Giamatti). He’s a former theater director-turned pickle entrepreneur; she’s a noted playwright and writer. The infertile couple are eager to have a child and become parents, and must explore the world of adoption and medically assisted reproduction to get a baby. They also must deal with money problems, and get a loan from his suburban dentist brother Dr. Charlie Grimes (John Carroll Lynch).The hectic film relays the couple’s stress, as they get involved in such things as embryo storage, egg retrieval, hormone injections, medication, adoption scams, long waits in crowded waiting rooms, unhelpful social workers,and other frustrating pursuits to get a baby. For the first half of the film we tail them around town, as they experience many awkward moments in their pursuit. Besides the emotional empathy felt for the couple, there’s the deadpan comedy and satirical one-liners related to their ticklish situation. But their situation takes an upturn (as does the film) with the appearance of the free-spirit Sadie (Kayli Carter), Richard’s aspiring-writer step-niece who dropped out of Bard, to the dismay of her nurturing mother Cynthia (Molly Shannon) and stepfather Dr. Charlie Grimes. Sadie tells her folks she wants to come live with her “Uncle Cool” in New York City and make her move in the art world. She’s also tells the infertile couple she’s receptive to being a potential egg donor.
Despite its flaws it’s a masterfully acted and a smart indie adult film, a mature comedy that rarely gets made anymore by the business-minded big studios. So what if it doesn’t know how to close the deal and beats its plot into submission with too many false endings and an ambiguous conclusion that fails to do it justice, it’s still better than a fair share of the recent sitcom films.
REVIEWED ON 11/7/2018 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/