Director-writer-producer Angela Garcia Combs’s sophomore effort Nothing Special takes on the difficulty of mother-daughter relations as its central theme, but fails to broach new or interesting territory with the material. Louise (Julia Garcia Combs) is a successful insurance underwriter whose bi-polar mother May (Karen Black) has recently moved into her home. Much of the tension between mother and daughter comes from May’s bi-polarity which often makes her unreasonable and a horror to deal with. But the portrayal of the disease is grossly unspecific, with “bi-polar” being a general place-holder for “crazy.” And Karen Black’s performance, which often hits Diane Ladd-in-Wild at Heart notes of histrionic hysteria, does little to bring depth to the depiction of the illness. The dramatic confrontations feel forced and synthetic and the rapport between the actresses is halting and awkward in a way that makes it not only doubtful that they’re mother and daughter, but that they have ever even been in the same room as one another. There's an unintentional self-reflexivity: a few beats into any given scene it becomes painfully obvious that everyone is “acting”. But, through Louise’s often funny voice-over narration, Garcia Combs does manage to fleetingly scrape together some insight into some people's desperate need to feel special, even if only inside their own heads. And kudos must be given to an ending that eschews false tidiness, leaving jagged edges between Louise and May that may never be smoothed.
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