The MichaelVox Movie Review Weblog
Proudly Spewing Unsolicited Film Opinion Online Since 1996
December 26, 2006
No one makes it alone.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is something special. And your enjoyment of this bleak drama depends on how much you like seeing her go through terrible experiences over and over again. She plays Sherry, who is out of prison after three years and under the supervision of a strict parole officer. She heads back to her New Jersey hometown and attempts to reconnect with her young daughter, who has been living with her brother and sister-in-law. She is saddened to find that life went on pretty well without her and her daughter can't decide whether to call her "Sherry" or "Mommy". This breaks Sherry's heart, but she shows it by hitting something or swearing loudly. Personal interaction is not Sherry's strong suit.
Sherry also favors low-cut blouses that set about proving her lack of a bra collection. She realizes that her sexuality is her most potent weapon, using it to land jobs, have someone to talk to, and get some definition of caring from her own family. The sex is frank and shocking and Gyllenhaal should be commended for taking on the role. She even seems to get some sort of pleasure out of it. She seems to realize that sex comes in many shades: power, business, companionship.
At the beginning of the film, I was afraid that she'd never have an interaction with a male that didn't end up with sex. Some men see her as an easy target, some see her longing "save me" face.
Sherry is also a drug addict and is in a 12-step program that struggles to keep her from shooting up in her run-down motel. This stuff we've seen before--the fixing, the fall from grace, the sadness at being weak. What's new about this is the fact that there isn't a question about Sherry's love for her daughter. When we meet Sherry's slimy father, we see how important it must be for Sherry to break the cycle. There arises an honest competition between the child's biological mother and the person who filled that role while Sherry was locked up. The two women are actually old friends, but when issues of the child are raised, they both become instinctually ferocious towards each other.
Gyllenhaal is in every scene and I couldn't get enough of her. She's trashy and crude and sexy and naive. She works at a daycare center where her idea of a harmless playground activity, "see how hard you can punch my hand," is quickly shot down by the rest of the staff. It also shows the parolee system working the way you wish it would--no excuses are believed and no sympathy is given.
All addicts are selfish and I found myself wondering if it wouldn't have been better for the child if Sherry had simply disappeared from her life after getting paroled. But then again, I'm not a mother. Sherry can barely take care of herself, how's she going to take care of her pride-and-joy, Alexis? Can someone like Sherry give up her need for attention long enough to care for another person?
Danny Trejo plays an ex-addict and he knows exactly what to do after one of Sherry's inevitable relapses. He offers what the other men can't seem to.
Really outstanding work in a hard-to-watch film.
A OG Entertainment Weekly
A- PR Christian Science Monitor
B NM Onion
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