Manna From Heaven Movie Review

The five precocious Burton sisters of Buffalo, NY have given us a precocious film about a group of people so hateful we are forced to try our best to simply ignore them. How's that for skipping the first day of Filmmaking 101?

Manna From Heaven is the story of a Buffalo family who one day discover $20,000 "raining from heaven," wisely decide to split it up, and then go on their merry ways. A decade or so later, every last one of them has grown up to be a loser, having squandered his or her (mostly her) share of the loot. The lone exception is Theresa (Ursula Burton... well of course the good one is going to be played by a Burton sister!) who has become an ash-on-the-forehead nun. In fact, Theresa becomes convinced that the 20 grand of so long ago was not a gift but a loan, and that they must now "pay it back."

Upon such a threadbare plot hinges the remainder of the film, wherein the family decides to throw a car raffle, a dance contest, a poker game, and collect door-to-door donations in order to raise the money to pay back... well, they're going to pay somebody back. But naturally, everyone has a hidden agenda and tries to get the money for herself... and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've seen Cloris Leachman begging for change on behalf of "Grannies in Need." (Note to the sisters Burton: Are you really paying it back if you get it from other people? Discuss at your next family dinner.)

Such banal plot points are matched only by the characters of Manna From Heaven, each more loathsome than the next. It's amazing that with talents like Seymour Cassel, Shelley Duvall, Louise Fletcher, and Wendie Malick there wasn't more that could have been done to salvage this ship, but honestly, the root of the problem lies in a script so foul that it's amazing the film is as good as it actually is. Which is to say: this close to scraping bottom.

From SXSW 2001.

Draw near and bear witness: Shirley Jones is not dead!


Comments

Manna From Heaven Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: NR, 2001

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