TV Review - Call Me Crazy: A Five Film
|Brittany Snow in "Call Me Crazy: A Five Film"|
Each film centers on one character suffering from a mental illness or some kind of mental trauma. Each one is about 18 minutes in length. Despite being short, I would say that each film manages to paint a good picture that is somewhat fleshed out or that tells a complete-enough story, except for the final two.
The penultimate one fails due to the trickiness of the character and situation, making it not necessarily anyone's fault. The final one fails due to the acting and some clunkiness in the writing and direction. Other than that, the short films offer good insight, compassion and hope for what has become a serious and important issue in our society that often doesn't get the attention it needs until it's too late.
The five female directors this time around are Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sharon Maguire, Bonnie Hunt and Ashley Judd. All five have assembled a cast of really great actors, most known from TV. Most work under the constraints and probably budget of the typical domestic drama without straying too far.
Laura Dern's film is the only one that stands out and is the only one that feels like it has any kind of real cinematic breath to it. Written by Jan Oxenberg, it's titled "Grace" and focuses on a young girl named Grace, played by Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) who becomes confused, embarrassed and then increasingly scared of her mom, Robin, played by Melissa Leo (Treme and Mildred Pierce), who is bipolar.
Things become terrifying when Grace realizes her mom has gone off her medication. Leo gives an off-putting performance as she swings from super upbeat to super depressed. Hyland matches her conveying her worrisome nature regardless if her mom is being playful and uber loving or if her mom is being like dead weight unwilling to move.
Oxenberg lays in good moments that reinforce the child having to be the parent to the adult. Dern adds visual moments that truly convey what it must be like for this girl. Going inside a snow-globe and the image of the goldfish being toted around underscore the trapping of the situation as well as how she conducts and sweeps this piece along, points to Dern as a good director.
Bryce Dallas Howard directed the first film called "Lucy." It in many ways sets the stage for the rest of the short films. Howard is of course the daughter of the actor-director of one of the most acclaimed films about mental illness. "Lucy" is far from A Beautiful Mind (2001), but "Lucy" does more of what the majority of the other shorts do not. Howard puts us in the shoes of the protagonist, played by Brittany Snow.
All the other short films are really about someone else's reaction to the person with the mental illness. This is most effective in "Grace." It is perhaps the least effective in the penultimate one, titled "Eddie," directed by Bonnie Hunt. It's about a standup comic who might also be bipolar, but is potentially more suicidal. Lea Thompson co-stars as Julia, the wife of the comic who observes something is wrong but that's really all she does. There are great cameos from James Avery and Chelsea Handler and Ross Matthews, but I don't think this short film got us much of anything.
The final short film is "Maggie," directed by Ashley Judd. The story, written by Erin Cressida Wilson, is a great one, as it tackles sexual assault and PTSD, centering on a female soldier in the U.S. Army, daughter of an officer and a single mom. There's so much potential here, but it collapses under the performance of Jennifer Hudson who seems to be playing the same character she did in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete and Black Nativity.
Hudson's performance undoes whatever potential of impact and importance within this story. She simply does not carry it as well as she's done previously. Judd's direction and/or Wilson's script don't help much either. The way the rape is revealed is too overblown. Maybe the point is to drop it like a bomb, but some build up for Hudson and Sean Carrigan (The Young and the Restless) who plays Sgt. Leonard, the rapist, would have been better.
Good or bad, these short films thrive on the relationships. The chemistry between Snow and Jason Ritter in "Lucy" is what makes that story soar. The back-and-forth between Hyland and Leo in "Grace" makes it a knockout. The dynamic between Sofia Vassilieva (Medium) and Ken Baumann (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) in the third short film, "Allison," directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones's Diary) is a cornerstone.
"Maggie" sinks as a film because the relationships aren't given enough due. Ernie Hudson who plays Maggie's father and Caleel Harris who plays Maggie's son try to develop a rapport in the brief time they have, but it's not enough. Perhaps opposite a better actress, it could have worked, but it barely passes.
Four Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.
Originally Aired on April 20, 2013.
Available now on DVD and VOD.