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Diminished Capacity (2008)

Diminished Capacity. Feature film. (2008, 92 mins) IMDB

...I think the filmmakers thought they were making a serious film, but I don't see it....

T

he film, DIMINISHED CAPACITY, tries hard to be a comedy and satire but it's brought down with a lame plot.

I can't remember the last time I watched a film that didn't follow the three-act structure and this film is no exception.

We meet Broderick in Chicago. He's working in newspaper syndication but having troubles because of some incident where his head was damaged. He had a concussion and the recovery has been slow. He can't work. He can't remember things. He takes pain killers.

Enter news his uncle living somewhere in the south where our hero grew up. He's having problems. His uncle is old and forgetful and needs help. That all seems logical, but why would a thirtysomething guy be asked to drop his life to return to his hick hometown and why would he agree. Because that's what the story calls for.

So, our hero, living in Chicago drops everything and heads south to his hometown where for reasons that defy logic, the first person he meets is his ex-flame in a grocery store. Still not sure how he ended up in his store, oh yes, because that's what the story calls for. In a flash, they catch up on old times, she's no longer married etc.

With this detour over, he continues on his journey to meet his uncle at his uncle's place. As soon as he steps from his car, someone is pointing a shotgun at him and the next thing you know he's ducking for cover as a shot goes off. I suppose they think it's funny, but it wasn't. We never really know who shot the gun or why he's at the uncle's house.

The uncle is played by Alan Alda who must be forever trying to rid his MASH persona. There are a few occasions where those mannerisms we've seen from the TV show come through, but for the most part, we hear an accent that is different and a look that is different. You can't blame the failure of this film on him or any of the actors.

At this house we get to see how far off the deep end this man has jumped. He socks are wet so he places a propane stove burner on a living room chair, turns on the gas and fiddles for minutes to light it. Meanwhile the entire room is filling with gas. There is a certain element of suspense and stupidity and comedy about it all, but I just groaned.

The best aspect of the film was his typewriter. He set his typewriter at the end of his dock. He attached fishing lines to each key such that with a nibble here or there, the keys are struck and words are composed on the page. It's gibberish of course, but to him, the fish are writing poetry. Love it. As with anything, who knows why, but I loved it.

From this point forward, the movie takes a silly course. We learn the uncle has in his possession a baseball card. Not sure what or where or who, but a card from way back when and nobody knew about it and it's worth lots and lots and lots of money. To that I say, so what, but that's where the story goes until the end. It's focused on this card and selling it and stealing it and being conned out of it and conning it back and well it's ridiculous.

Instead of focusing on something of significance as they had set up the story--two men dealing with mental illnesses, the filmmakers decide to take this jaunt down a clichéd route.

I'll fill in the rest. Once the card is revealed, it's the solution to the uncle's financial problems. Travel to Chicago, sell it and then dear uncle will have lots and lots of money to live in his house and be able to listen to his fish recite poetry. And so everyone gets in a car to travel to Chicago to sell the card--even a brother of the love interest who only wants to steal it. When you have a plot element like that, you know you're in for a...well. It's not the movie I expected. For a few moments it had me believing this could be another LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but not even close.

What happens in Chicago is trite. A baseball card convention. Trying to selling it. One dealer who is Mr. Nice. One dealer who is Mr. Shark. Give me a break.

The second act ends when uncle sells it to Mr. Shark for a pittance. Everybody is up in arms. It shouldn't have happened because he's not legally competent to make such a deal. That's true. But in the end, the card is returned and auctioned for a big amount and the uncle gets to keep a replicate because he wants something to remember his grandfather by. It was his grandfather who gave him the card.

I suspect the filmmakers thought this last revelation would provide some great insight and a tear-jerking moment, but they miscalculated. Why didn't he say it before? If that's what the card meant, then have it out earlier. The rest was just about greed, about money, not about living and memories.

I could rant some more, but I won't. I think I've done enough.

The best part of the film was seeing Virginia Madsen again.

Oh, yeah. Who is Ernie Banks?

Posted 2009/02/11 at 20h24ET in Movie Commentary.

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