“Diane,” the fiction directing debut of, longtime film critic and current director of the New York Film Festival, Kent Jones is driven by an excellent lead performance. However, despite its perceptive realism, this frustratingly slight drama keeps looking for an identity throughout its morose and uninvolving 96 minutes, but just can’t seem to find it.
Mary Kay Place plays the titular character, a woman in her late sixties who has to deal with her heroin-addicted son (Jake Lacy) and a cousin that is dying of cervical. Her offspring is a lost cause, knee-deep into his heroine habit, but Diane keeps showing up at his apartment, every day, doing his laundry, bringing him groceries and relentlessly asking him to go back to rehab.
But then he unexpectedly cleans up, hell, how about he becomes a born-again Christian by marrying bible-thumper Tally (Celia Keenan-Bolger). Surprisingly, this still doesn’t bring mother and son together — in fact, Diane is turned off in very much the same his heroine problem did, it doesn’t help that the newly wed couple keep trying to convert her into going to church and becoming a Jesus freak.
Lacy is a commendable actor but he’s miscast here as the lost, sadsack son, a walking cliche we’ve all seen before. Diane’s relationship with him feels a tad too on-the-nose, ditto the depiction of blue-collar lives in small-town Massachusetts. Jones loves to film scenes of twilight-year’ed folk chatting it up in buffets, homes, cars, and shelter. The morose nature of these conversations usually revolves around death and who’s gotten sick and who’s died. Kill me now. Focusing on the most mundane aspects of our almost unimportant existence, Jones includes a repeated series of shots involving Diane driving from location to location, from calamity to calamity, with almost no tension or involvement being given to the viewer.
At the end of the day, Diane” is arthouse misery porn, but brought up to the nth degree so that you truly feel the middle-class pain these characters are feeling, the problem is you don’t. [C]
** Particularly noteworthy are turns by Deirdre O'Connell as Diane’s cousin, and the always-excellent Andrea Martin as her best friend.