Friday, April 24, 2015

Like Sunday, Like Rain (2014) [R] ***

A film review by Gary Goldstein, for the L.A. Times on March 20, 2015.

Writer-director Frank Whaley, primarily a busy film and TV actor (Field of Dreams, The Doors, Pulp Fiction, Vacancy), has crafted a tender, evocative tale of an unlikely friendship in his fourth outing behind the camera, Like Sunday, Like Rain.

The title, which evokes some lost Neil Diamond song, refers to a music composition written by 12-year-old Reggie (Julian Shatkin), a math and cello prodigy, music composer, voracious reader and all-around genius who lives in hollow luxury on Manhattan's Upper West Side with his tense, dismissive mother, Barbara (Debra Messing).

Then there's Eleanor (Leighton Meester), a 20ish waitress with a man-child guitarist boyfriend (Billie Joe Armstrong) who's just frayed her last nerve. A perfect storm of events leads the floundering Eleanor to a gig as Reggie's live-in nanny, just as Barbara is leaving for a stretch in China with her second husband. (Her first spouse, Reggie's father, died in a car accident.)

As the summer progresses, Reggie and Eleanor become friends and cautious confidantes, with Reggie developing a gentle crush on his musically inclined guardian. In ways that are warm and credible, their odd-couple dynamic ultimately poses the question: who's the nanny for whom?

A rocky trip to see Eleanor's dying father and her low-rent family in upstate New York seals the bond between Reggie and Eleanor. Their late-night motel conversation is especially poignant.

Whaley nicely calibrates this wistful dramedy's emotional quotient, never allowing sentiment to turn into sap. He also smartly dials down Reggie's initial precociousness to reveal a kid who's deep, resourceful and strangely sensible.

Shatkin and Meester are terrific together, deftly navigating roles that could have become phony or clichéd. Messing is effective in her brief turn, though it's a one-note part.

A touching ending caps a quite wonderful journey, one that's greatly enhanced by Jimi Jones' fine camera work and a lovely score by Ed Harcourt. [Goldstein’s rating: **** out of 5 stars]

Labels: drama, music

Blogger's Comment [ SPOILER ALERT ]: After thinking about this film for a few days, I want to log some thoughts about the ending. This is clearly a SPOILER, so if you want to watch the film innocently, do not read any further.

Eleanor's experience taking Reggie to visit her trailer-trash family in Oneida, upstate New York is so alienating to both of them that they can't stay with her mother and second husband (the brother of her dying father) so they go to stay in a motel. The following morning after visiting her father in the hospital, Eleanor and Reggie leave, and she vows never to return. Now back in NYC, Eleanor decides that she needs to return home, so she finds a replacement au pair girl, even though she promised Reggie's mother that Eleanor would stay until she returned from China. So Eleanor and Reggie say a tearful, heartfelt goodbye and Eleanor takes the bus back to Oneida, where she finds a UPS/FedEx package on the front stoop of her mother's home, a box containing a new cornet, a gift from Reggie.

Long story short, the last ten minutes of the film make no sense.


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