The Talent Given Us

Rated NR 2005

This is a good film, with a whip-smart script and sharp, naturalistic acting. It's also skin-crawlingly intimate, as it stars the family of writer-director Andrew Wagner, whose parents and sisters play themselves -- or heightened versions of themselves, we hope. The plot concerns Andrew's estrangement from the family and his mother's attempt to reconnect. Judy's realization that she has lost touch with her son awakens something else in her -- an awareness that she has slept through her life. Suddenly, she piles her ailing husband and two grown daughters (one of whom is Emily Wagner of ER semi-fame) into the minivan and demands a trip to L.A. The four bicker, accuse, overshare, and kvetch their way across the country, stopping for oddball amusements and visits with random acquaintances. While occasionally exhausting, the film is a spot-on study of character, relationship, and the attempt to medicate mental illness with therapy, drugs, food, sex, blame, etc. Emily's character is overripe, and the ending is gimmicky, but most of Talent is exactly right.

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