Welcome to L.A. Weekly's Movie Guide, your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art-house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your big-screen plans.
Friday, March 29
Diane is New York–based film critic Kent Jones' narrative feature debut, a modest character study about a middle-aged widow in rural Massachusetts. Brought to life in an unshowy, nicely calibrated performance by Mary Kay Place, Diane is an ordinary, self-sacrificing woman whose life consists of endless errands for friends and family. She fills her days with visits to a sister (Deirdre O'Connell) dying of cervical cancer, shifts at the local soup kitchen, and regular check-ins with her ornery, drug-addicted son (Jake Lacy). Diane is probably someone everyone has met — a genuinely decent person whose hands are always full of fresh laundry or a casserole dish, and who seems to carry a mysterious burden of guilt wherever she goes. By the time the film reveals the source of that guilt, we are already inclined to care about this woman, whose plain Christian faith entails absorbing the suffering of those around her.
Jones, who based the main character on his mother and wrote the part specifically for Place, has an innate feel for the mundanities of life in the Berkshires, that mountainous area of New England flecked with small, tight-knit communities. Every room looks lived in, every prop realistically worn. The fine ensemble includes Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Joyce Van Patten and others whose life experience is inscribed in every wrinkle on their foreheads. The dialogue feels correct, too, except for when the film settles into an uncomfortable dinner with a family of Pentecostal Christians. Here, Jones's commitment to verisimilitude slips a little, revealing a condescending attitude.
At a certain point in the story, time seems to accelerate. Characters die, and Diane herself ages suddenly and dramatically. A weighty feeling for the transience of life — a favorite theme of Ozu and other masters of world cinema — settles in, and a strong sense of the mystery of human existence creeps into the picture, lingering well after the poignant final scene. Diane is independent filmmaking of a kind whose virtues are moderate but commendable: no melodramatic overtures or artificially imposed plot devices, no earth-shattering revelations or climaxes, just a handful of beautifully judged characterizations, a strong sense of place and an unerring faith in the dignity of the individual soul. Mary Kay Place will be present for Q&As after the 7 p.m. show on both Friday and Saturday. Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; Fri.-Thu., March 29-April 4, various showtimes; $9-$12. (310) 473-8530, landmarktheatres.com.
Also opening Friday, March 29: The Beach Bum; The Brink; Dumbo; Unplanned; A Vigilante; White Chamber; Wounds