One month after Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), another movie opens featuring a woman our age. In this one she is Diane, and like Gloria Bell, adult children play a significant role in the story line. Gloria has a son and daughter, Diane struggles with her adult son. The movie stars Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill, The Rainmaker, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) as Diane, and Jake Lacy (Better With You, Carol) as her son Brian. Andrea Martin, Estelle Parsons and Deidre O’Connell play supporting roles.
Diane starts with a black screen and the sound of a hospital monitor telling us the patient is still alive. Diane is asleep on a chair next to a hospital bed. Her cousin Donna has terminal cervical cancer. Diane wakes up to Donna looking at her with tender concern as if Diane was the sick one. “How are you?” Donna asks. She reaches out and holds Diane’s hand.
In the next scenes Diane is in constant motion. She brings a casserole to a neighbor who just had surgery. She barges into her son’s apartment with clean laundry. She serves mac and cheese at a soup kitchen, fiercely defending a man when another volunteer does not allow him a third chicken leg. She listens and responds sympathetically to a girlfriend griping about life. Diane drives back and forth along bleak, winter roads, in and out of homes where close-knit family and friends gather and talk with familiarity. Frankly and brutally. And everybody seems to take it all in and speak on. Where folks argue about which year so and so died. They retell stories with a nuance particular to the moment, and women are heard above the men, connecting and cheering one another with stories.
At home alone, just before turning off her bedside lamp, Diane makes a list in perfect, slow, cursive. The viewer starts to wonder—what is Diane hiding/running away from/avoiding?
a movie about “the rhythm of the living”
Diane is written and directed by Kent Jones. He just turned sixty and this is his first dramatic feature movie. Inspired by the elder women in his life, Mr. Jones wanted to do a movie about “the rhythm of the living.” The actors seem natural and real, they seem to be, rather than to act. The lines they speak are what you might say or hear when you gather with yours: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” “You are not alone.” “It’s all right to come a little undone.” And some you don’t wish to hear: “I forgive you, but I haven’t forgotten.”
forestalling loneliness, moving through life/going on, is vital work
One critic describes the movie as exhilaratingly gloomy. Sometimes the camera stays a little too long in one place, usually on Diane’s quietly expressive face. It’s cold and snowy, people die, people do drugs, people cuss. There are dream sequences and time lapses that can be confusing. At the same time, the movie is vibrant and alive; even in death, there’s much to do by the ones left behind. And forestalling loneliness, moving through life and going on, is vital work.
This movie acknowledges something people our age know, that while we all have a core and we may hang onto that core, we were different people in our past. Some we may not be entirely proud of. It is the mystery that explains why we do what we do now. That permeates Diane the movie and suggests why Diane the character, ceaselessly helps others more than she helps herself.
(It will pass. Life goes on)
Both Gloria and Diane show us how to move on with pain and shame. How women after fifty have the resilience to forge forward. With our heads up. In all our glory. (It will pass. Life goes on.)
I taught myself to disapprove of you, next time I beat you on the head… just remember what I just said
Gloria Bell’s adult children are adept at having as little as possible to do with her. Even when they spend time together, Gloria’s son played by Michael Cerra is distant and looks away from her. Diane’s adult son Brian is wholly dependent on Diane, he cannot avoid her, and he resents it. By the time we learn why, he comes around. He steals away from his wife to see Diane, and tells her: “you should know, I wasn’t angry at you, I was supposed to be angry at you, I taught myself to disapprove of you.” Then he adds, calling her Diane instead of Mom, “next time I beat you on the head with it, just remember what I just said.”
You the viewer want to hit him on the head. But you realize for Diane, and for any parent whose had a come-to-Jesus moment with an adult child, it was a moment of redemption. Thank you, Brian, thank you Diane.
(Shown in select cinemas. Available on YouTube, Google or Amazon)