Donna Grey

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The Designated Mourner Review


OK
Is Wallace Shawn a genius? I won't try to deny it. The diminuitive actor and prolific writer has some amazing insight on life, and in this film, an adaptation of his stage play, three characters sit at a table and talk to the camera (and, rarely, to one another) about those insights. Think Spalding Gray, times three, but without the humor. A lack of humor is what gets this Mourner into trouble early on. While the commentary is biting, the setting (a futuristic totalitarian state out of The Handmaid's Tale) feels unfinished and false, and much of the chit-chat revolves around the death of individuality due to the new regime, not due to any real character development. As a result, Mourner is a tough nut to crack and requires your utmost attention to the smallest nuances of speech. Nichols is astounding. The other players are less so. The film on the whole feels overwhelmingly pretentious, but it certainly has its moments.
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