“Diane” is more of a meditation then a film. Actress Mary Kay Place is a do-good volunteer whose “to do list” encompasses visiting the sick, serving meals at a shelter, listening to caregivers of ailing husbands, and taking care of the laundry and well-being of a druggy son ( Jake Lacy) . Pushing 68 never looked more depressing than exchanging casserole dishes or being cut off at the neighborhood bar.
The message seems to be “ you are not alone in your misery”. Kent Jones is the writer and the director of “Diane”. He uses the winding roadways of western Massachusetts to show us how small town rural bonding helps connect us to each other’s pain while lessening the solitude of our own. Card playing, pot-luck dinners, small town gossip, canning escapades, and advice giving at County Buffets are all documented.
Everyone knows their neighbors intimate circumstances. Diane’s practical friend, Bobbie, ( Andrea Martin) knows of Diane’s son’s addiction and the extreme stress it heaves on her. She also knows he bullies his mother. “You have to get some peace,” she berates her friend. Diane pushes back with, “Leave a baby on a mountaintop to die!” They needle, but support one another. The mundane is championed as core. There are clashes with a judgmental worker, who wants the rules on second helpings upheld. There are insights from a man Diane regularly serves named Tom. He notes that she is always apologetic, yet he feels “sanctified” by her giving him help.
I did not find the dream sequences effective, but the old age voice of “did I turn off the burner” is a spark of humor that writer Kent is expert at displaying. In comparing this film to the twice made “Gloria” ( reviewed Feb. 8th, 2015) ,Diane would be the better woman and , assuredly, the better friend. Life, past and present goes fast. This film is a meditation to just that.
Sarcasm is everyday real, too. When a daughter is found helping with her ailing father, Diane cuts with “ What a nice surprise!” The younger generation is slow to step up, but Diane is just as slow to forgive her past sins. Her cousin Donna ( Deirdre O’Connell ) is dying of cervical cancer. Donna has not forgotten that Diane took off with her boyfriend, leaving her to take care of the young Brian. Donna has forgiven Diane, but Diane has not forgiven herself. Diane writes in loopy handwriting in her journal of her big “sin”.
Manicures and evangelical church services keep Diane reflecting as she continues to journal. She finds solace in nature walks and writes knowing that “ I am left to be…” ~the existential journey for all of us.