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PBIFF’13 MOVIE REVIEW: “Decoding Annie Parker”

April 11, 2013

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 5.28.48 PM

The Palm Beach International Film Festivals opening night film last year was “Robot & Frank”, a delightful, warm-hearted film, about an old retired crook with Alzheimer making friends with a Medicare robot. Audiences left the theater with smiles and delight. This year was the cancer dramedy “Decoding Annie Parker”; based on the true story of the films title character that fought everyday to prove that her cancer was something more than just what she ate, drink, or breathed in the world.

Directed & co-written by Steven Bernstein, his film has a powerful theme/message, but it suffers from tiresome editing, and a shorten runtime that rushes 4 decades of Annie Parker’s cancer history that leaves us not feeling very much, well, for me at least.

Annie Parker (Samantha Morton), a sharp witted, funny and irrepressible young woman who watches her mother, then sister, fall victim to breast cancer. When, later, she herself is diagnosed with the disease, she is resolved to fight back against immeasurable odds. The film also follows Dr. Mary-Claire King (Helen Hunt), the geneticist whose discovery of the BRCA1 gene and its link to breast cancer forever changed the understanding of human disease. Hers is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century. These two women are separated by thousands of miles, by circumstance, background and education, and yet, as told in the film, their two lives gradually intertwine over 15 years until a singular, life-changing occurrence.

I’m not trying to sound like some male selfish bastard, I can sympathize about breast cancer, one of my best friends mom went through with it, and it’s not a pretty picture. I can even empathize with few of the audience’s members during the Q/A of the films opening that they could relate to Annie Parker in just about every way. My beef with this movie was that it comes off as one of those two and a half hour Oscar bait dramas, that tend to be good, but instead sinks down to the bare minimum and plain old essential storytelling ploys. I feel that there is a good movie here; it’s just that a lot of it is lost on the editing room floor, and a massive re-cut should be taken into consideration.

You can’t do anything about the actors age look, what’s done is done. Samantha Morton looks the same from the beginning of the film (1970s) to the near end of the films timeline (1990s), but whizzing through all these dates one after the other becomes tiresome and comes off as lazy. I’m sorry, but it just does, I cannot for the like of me stand to see those “…years later” more than once in a film. This movie does it six or seven times! Other than those major issues I have with the film, it doesn’t very much affect the acting quality this movie evokes. Helen Hunt & Samantha Morton do an incredible job in their given lead roles, Hunt may have been underused, but you can argue with the fact that this movies title features “Annie Parker”, so Morton’s focus should be the main thing here. However, I found myself a little more engaged with Hunt’s Dr. King than Morton’s Parker. It’s just that Dr. King’s scenes were far more fascinating than Parker’s constant melodrama with her friends and family, not mention her marital troubles with her wanna be rock star husband, played by “Breaking Bad” star, Aaron Paul.

The movie does mean well in the long wrong, and its mission is an admirable one. Director, Steven Bernstein made an announcement that they’re not going for distribution but instead take the film on the road and half the proceeds the movie earns will go to cancer research organizations. A bold choice, and something you don’t see movies like “50/50″ or “Funny People” doing…except those movies had far more interesting plot developments.

GRADE: C+

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Maddie permalink
    August 6, 2013 2:20 pm

    Completely agree!

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