“BEFORE YOU KNOW IT”: Sisters
My rating: B- (Opens Sept. 27 at the Barrywoods 24) 98 minutes | No MPAA rating
Published September 26, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene
A family comedy with just enough edge, “Before You Know It” is the creation of Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock, who co-wrote the script and star as mutually exasperated sisters.
In addition, Utt directed.
The end results aren’t earth-shaking, but there’s a good deal of talent on display.
As she approaches 30 Rachel Gruner (Utt) still hasn’t had a chance to discover herself…she’s got a full-time job being the only grownup in a household where delusion reigns.
Her widowed father, playwright/actor Mel Gruner (Mandy Patinkin), is an overgrown child who has spent the last 50 years writing and starring in plays no one sees. He mounts them in the basement theater of the Greenwich Village building he owns; the family lives upstairs.
Rachel’s older sister Jackie (Jen Tullock) is an always-aspiring actress who spends too much time chasing men to pay much attention to her 12-year-old daughter Dodge (Oona Yaffe).
By default, Rachel runs the family’s struggling theater company and serves as surrogate mother to Dodge, catering to her father’s artistic dreams and ignoring Jackie’s more maddening behavior.
But when Mel suffers a fatal heart attack, Rachel and Jackie discover that the mother they thought died nearly 30 years earlier is still alive. Indeed, she is a soap opera star named Sherrell (Judith Light) who has been paying the mortgage on the theater/apartment all this time. If they want to keep a roof over their heads, the sisters had best reach out to Mama.
herrell is so utterly self-absorbed that she barely blinks when confronted with her two grown daughters. She wonders what took them so long to look her up.
A classic diva both on and off set, she employs Rachel’s skill as a writer to improve her lame dialogue; this only alienates Jackie, who has never known success and resents that her sister has suddenly jumped to the head of the line.
Meanwhile Dodge, more or less abandoned, is dealing with her first period with the help of a classmate (Arica Himmel) and her single lawyer father (Mike Colter).
Among the supporting cast are familiar faces like Alec Baldwin (as the child psychologist Jackie is bonking) and Tim Daly as a preening soap actor.
“Before You Know It” has a likability factor that grows steadily throughout. Here’s hoping this Utt/Tullock collaboration is only the first of many.
| Robert W. Butler
Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene
Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.
He couldn’t take the hint.
OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.
UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.