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Review: Grief Encounter

movie-reviews Updated: Sep 12, 2009 16:35 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Grief encounter
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin
Direction: Nick Cassavates
Rating: ** & 1/2

Evidently designed to activate the viewer’s tear-ducts, the adaptation of the 2004 bestseller by Jodi Picoult is more treacly than emotionally wrenching.

In one of her all-too-rare dramatic roles, Cameron Diaz convincingly portrays a loving mother who refuses to give up on her cancer-stricken teenage daughter (Sofia Vassilieva, impressive). There’s little else, however, that’s exceptional in the storyline which pretends to examine issues such as parental ethics but defaults into a clichéd melodrama.

The familial conflict arises when the youngest daughter (Breslin, the kid star of Little Miss Sunshine, delightful as ever) refuses to donate her kidney to her terminally-ill sister.

Utilising an intricate flashback structure intertwined with multiple voice-over narrations, director Nick Cassavates’s style is far too flaccid when it isn’t actually hackneyed. Incidentally, he’s the son of the celebrated independent American auteur, John Cassavates.

While some of the sequences like the romance between two chemo-ravaged patients are poignant, others are merely syrupy and sanctimonious. Worse, the script settles for a sentimental storybook finale. The use of pop songs to signpost every significant event is also an irritant. On the other hand, the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel provides eye-candy.

The stellar supporting cast includes Joan Cusack as the judge struggling to cope with a tragedy of her own and Alec Baldwin in the role of the smarmy lawyer.

Advice: keep those tissues handy.