Sherrybaby

"Good"

Sherrybaby Review


It struck me while watching Sherrybaby that one of Maggie Gyllenhaal's greatest strengths as an actress is an ability to cross class lines effortlessly and often. There are some great, versatile actresses -- Nicole Kidman, perhaps -- who nonetheless don't seem qualified to play someone like Sherry Swanson (Gyllenhaal), a young recovering drug addict just out of prison, longing with needy desperation to begin mothering her young daughter Alexis (Ryan Simpkins).

Yes, Charlize Theron uglied herself up for Monster and Halle Berry went working-class for Monster's Ball. But Sherrybaby isn't Monster Mommy; it's a quiet, painful little portrait with little of the inherent sympathy (or showier ugliness) of those other roles. More to the point, while Theron and Berry rocked the Oscar-friendly reverse-makeover, Gyllenhaal looks more or less as she usually does: moony face, sad eyes, feathery voice. The only physical transformation involves a blond dye-job, trashy heels, and a lot more screen time for her breasts.

Yet this is all Gyllenhaal and her extraordinary talent require; she is utterly believable as the damaged and near-destitute Sherry, with her standoffish walk and childlike nervous energy, just as convincing as when she plays a polished Manhattanite (The Great New Wonderful, Trust the Man) or a middle-class housewife (World Trade Center). Interesting that so many of her characters, including Sherry, revolve around New York or New Jersey; it's as if Gyllenhaal's offbeat loveliness is the key to an entire metro area (or at least the white-girl portions of one).

And yet Sherrybaby itself left me thinking more about Gyllenhaal's talent than the movie it was serving. Maybe it's the release-date proximity of Down to the Bone, last year's addict-mother indie drama that resembles Sherrybaby not only in its starkness, but in its star: Bone's Vera Farmiga could pass for Gyllenhaal's hardened older sister. Maybe this territory is just too familiar altogether: the poverty, the bad sex, the temptation to relapse, the few comforting faces among dozens who just don't get it or just don't understand.

Sherrybaby is certainly unblinking in its depiction of motherhood; watching Sherry pine for Alexis, fussing over her during visits -- the child is cared for by Sherry's brother and his wife (Brad William Henke and Bridget Barkan) -- often to the point of smothering, makes for an uneasy counterpoint to all of those Hollywood thrillers where a steely mother (usually played by Jodie Foster) will stop at absolutely nothing to protect her child. Little Ryan Simpkins has apparently been isolated from all actressy affects, because she gives as natural a child performance as you're likely to see.

All of the performances, really, are fine in this movie, including Danny Trejo, moving beyond his usual range of grizzled criminals to play a gentle fellow addict, more successful at kicking his habit and nudging -- not pushing -- Sherry in the right direction. But I'm not sure what writer-director Laurie Collyer's point is. As far as I can tell, her movie is realistic, and Sherry's struggles have kind of a horrifically compelling quality; you want her to succeed, or even survive, though for most people she will probably inspire more pity than empathy. What's missing is a fleshed-out character or relationship (not just smart but thin counterpoints) to make this more than a performance piece. Gyllenhaal's work is as strong as a lot of bona fide Oscar bait, not to mention less showy. Unfortunately, the movie around her stands at a respectful distance -- not from her, specifically, but from a unique point of view.

Is it Take Your Daughter to Work Day already?



Sherrybaby

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th February 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $622.8 thousand

Budget: $2M

Production compaines: Red Envelope Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Laurie Collyer

Starring: as Sherry Swanson, Michelle Hurst as Dorothy Washington, Sandra Rodríguez as Desi, as Dean Walker, as Bobby Swanson, as Bob Swanson Sr, as Parole Officer Hernandez

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.