Diminished Capacity

2008, Movie, NR, 92 mins

Review

DIMINISHED CAPACITY
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Actor Terry Kinney's feature directing debut is a risky, not entirely successful comedy about mental disability, based on the novel by Sherwood Kiraly.

Ten months ago, small town-boy-made-good Cooper Zerbs (Matthew Broderick) suffered a severe concussion while breaking up a fight between co-worker Stan (Louis C.K.) and Stan's then-girlfriend, Irene (Heidi Neurauter). Though he's improving slowly, Cooper – an editor at a Chicago-based newspaper syndication group – is plagued by short-term memory loss and a persistent inability to focus. His job hangs by the goodwill of his boss (Jeff Perry) -- who bumped Cooper down from editing breaking news to comics – and his relationship with Irene is foundering; she hooked up with a hero only to find herself living with a mild-mannered milquetoast, and a damaged one at that. Then Cooper's strong-willed mother, Belle (Lois Smith), calls: She wants him to come home to tiny LaPorte, Missouri, and help her place his Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda) in an assisted-living facility. The always-eccentric Rollie, she says, is loosing his marbles – the doctor calls it "diminished capacity" – but Rollie is hell bent on staying in his ramshackle house. Over the course of a long weekend, Cooper is dumped via videotape, rekindles his romance with high-school sweetheart Charlotte (Virginia Madsen), agrees to help Rollie sell a valuable baseball card, loses his job, is menaced at gunpoint by Charlotte's alcoholic brother (Jim True-Frost) and discovers the world of rabid sports- memorabilia dealers.

And there's more: Rollie and Cooper's picaresque adventures are attenuated – they lose and recover the card a couple of times too many – and perpetually on the verge of slipping into twee cuteness; Rollie's hobby, after all, is compiling poetry produced by fish via a homemade contraption involving baited lines tied to the keys of an old manual typewriter. The film is a light gloss on a dark subject, but but Alda's performance keeps it grounded: His Rollie delivers a potent mix of roguish charm, wily compensatory mannerisms and the occasional flash of impotent rage at his own failing abilities. And Dylan Walsh and Bobby Cannevale turn up as rival memorabilia dealers just as they're bogging down in too much gentle cuteness – the sheer, adrenaline-soaked craziness of their supposedly normal characters is a blast of much-needed energy. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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