Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sorting through the stuff of life

Nostalgia boasts a strong cast, a willingness to carry some heavy emotional weight and an anthology-like structure. But (and you probably knew there was a "but" coming), the movie plays like a collection of ideas and monologues fueled by a sincerity that isn't quite the same as insight or hard-won dramatic truth. Several semi-linked stories ponder the relationship between memory and the possessions people accumulate over a lifetime. John Ortiz portrays an insurance assessor who puts a price tag on such things; he begins by meeting with an elderly man (Bruce Dern) who's going through an evaluation of his belongings. Next, we meet a widow portrayed by Ellen Burstyn. When her home was destroyed by fire, she managed to save only one thing, a baseball autographed by Ted Williams. The ball was one of her late husband's cherished possessions. The movie's longest segment involves Jon Hamm as a savvy but compassionate trader of collectibles. After his parents move into an assisted living facility, Hamm's character finds himself helping to dispose of the things they've left behind. He also lands in the middle of a tragedy involving his sister (Catherine Keener) and her husband (James LeGros). The movie sometimes confuses the maudlin and the meaningful, proving of interest only for a cast that deserved a more unified and incisive screenplay. Screenwriter Alex Ross Perry (Queen of the Earth, Listen Up Philip) doesn't get the job done, leaving director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies) to lean heavily on his actors. Otherwise, Nostalgia comes off as a kind of dramatic estate sale, a look into the lives of characters who are stuck contemplating the stuff of their lives -- and doing it much too literally.

No comments: