Surrender Dorothy (2006) Movie Review
As a group of 30-ish friends gather Big Chill style for a month in the Hamptons, they can't know tragedy awaits. The core of the group is the enchanting Sara (Alex Davalos), the lifelong muse of her best friend, gay writer Adam (Tom Everett Scott), who shows up with his boyfriend Shawn (Chris Pine). Also in the group: Sara's school chums, Maddy (Lauren German) and her husband Peter (Josh Hopkins), along with their new baby.
No sooner do Adam and Sara drive off for a traditional first-night ice cream cone than their car is broadsided (rather spectacularly for a cable movie), and Sara is killed instantly. Adam, on the other hand, walks away only slightly injured. It's up to him to call Sara's overbearing mother Natalie (Keaton), who takes the call on her car phone and almost ends up dead herself when she loses control upon hearing the news.
A few days after the funeral, to which Natalie does not invite the friends, Natalie shows up uninvited at the Hamptons house and quickly stirs up trouble with her many overlapping manias. She starts to clean and can't stop. She asks endless questions about her daughter. She learns some secrets and reveals others, causing rifts among the group. Adam accuses her of smothering her daughter with nervous attention. She accuses Adam of preventing Sara from growing up (not to mention taking her out for ice cream). The friends alternately try to embrace Natalie with sympathy and push her away when her antics are too much, such as the moment when she refuses to let each of them have a small memento of Sara's.
In flashbacks we see just how controlling and difficult Natalie was as a mother, and once Natalie gets her hands on Sara's journal, which is written in Japanese, and asks a sushi chef to translate some of it, she begins to realize that the best-friend relationship she thought she had with Sara was nothing more than her own fantasy. Her little rituals, such as greeting Sara on the phone with the phrase "Surrender Dorothy" weren't as endearing as she thought they were.
All of this is a bit stagey and weepy, but it goes by briskly and Keaton is as watchable as always, even when she's being unbearable. The rest of the talented cast has little choice but to ride her wake. This is the Keaton show from start to finish.