This one is so real it hurts.
Burt (Robert Forster) and Ruth (Blythe Danner) have been married
all their lives. They raised
two children, Nick (Michael Shannon) and Bridget (Hilary Swank), who are
now both middle age-ish. Nick's had a long-time girlfriend, but never
married and never had kids. He's
put his life savings into a local bar, where he is the bartender.
He makes a good Manhattan. He
smokes because every time he tries to quit, Life happens.
He sleeps on a cot in the back room.
He cusses a lot, and he has a hair-trigger temper, and he's not
afraid to confront anybody with his version of the truth, no matter how
blunt. But he thinks he means
well. He's stayed in Chicago,
near Mom and Dad, but he's convinced that Mom is losing her mind, and
needs to be placed in a memory care unit, with Dad in an assisted living
nearby, but Dad absolutely refuses to even consider it.
So Nick calls Bridget and tells her to please come home from
California to help him convince Dad.
Bridget is that good girl, who always tries to do the right thing.
She keeps herself in shape by running, hard, and tries hard to
relate to a younger college-age daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga), who's
mostly angry and sarcastic, but came along on this trip to see her
grandparents because Uncle Nick said it was important.
Bridget got married when she was 20, partly to get out of being the
girl in the house who did all the housework because Dad and Mom and her
big brother all had jobs. Her
husband, Eddie (Josh Lucas) is a good provider, but lately Bridget has
been waking up in the middle of the night asking herself, “Is this all
there is?” Her older
daughter has already moved out, and Emma is resisting going back to
college, saying it's not for her, but Bridget is so determined that she
wants Emma to have the opportunities which she did not.
Bridget's work is with her hands in frozen chicken.
Mom is at that stage of dementia where sometimes she has lucid
moments, sometimes she forgets where she is and who the people are around
her, and sometimes she just gets up and leaves without telling anybody.
Whenever that happens, Nick gets apoplectic with his inability to
get Dad or Bridget to agree with him.
Bridget arranges for something less drastic, changing the locks so
they lock from the inside, as well, so at least Mom won't disappear in a
snowstorm again. But Nick sees
this as a band-aid that doesn't address the bigger issue.
Dad just says that Ruth is his girl, and marriage is about
commitment, there's no bells and whistles, and he's not about to abandon
his Ruthie, because nobody can take better care of her than he can.
There's a lot of existential angst here, because everybody wants
something of somebody else, but nobody is getting their way.
So everybody's frustrated, except Mom, who laughs at herself when
the phone rings and she picks up a stapler and says “Hello.”
But she drinks the holy water at the Mass, and during the singing
of “Joy to the World” gives a one-finger salute to the guy in the pew
in front of her when he turns around and asks her to quit talking.
She sometimes calls Burt her “boyfriend,” and sometimes thinks
of Bridget as her Mother. She
thinks she needs to be somewhere else, but she's not sure where.
She's not afraid, but she is confused.
And obviously unable to care for herself.
Is there a resolution? Yes,
but probably not the one you'd expect.
But that's how family dynamics go.
Sometimes it's so real it hurts.