“There were so many reasons I felt compelled to tell the story,” first-time director Elizabeth Chomko said of her film What They Had at Deadline’s Sundance Studio, “but the biggest one, I think, especially in hindsight, is the awareness that memories are a gift and that they’re precious.”
Memory loss is a key tenet in Chomko’s film, which she also wrote. The story follows a family dealing with the fallout of its matriarch’s descent into Alzheimer’s as estranged siblings Nick (Michael Shannon) and Bridget (Hilary Swank) are forced back together to make some difficult decisions about their parent’s future.
Speaking alongside Chomko were castmembers Shannon, Swank, Taissa Farmiga and Blythe Danner, who plays the dementia-stricken Ruth.
“The film is about a lot of things,” Chomko added, “but it’s certainly about coming of age at every stage of life and loving and letting go.”
Describing his character as “not quite sure of his place in the world,” Shannon said, “The one thing he’s very devoted to is his family and his parents and he’s kind of stayed behind and kept an eye on them.”
Conversely, Swank’s character seems at first glance to have it all together with her marriage and children, but inside she’s overstretched. “She’s holding herself together,” said Swank. “I think it’s really the plight of many women, because by nature we’re nurturers, and we give and we give and we give and sometimes it’s to the point where it’s not to our best interests.”
In essence, What They Had is a story of a normal family, with all the nuance inherent in that. “There’s a lot of stuff at play here,” Swank said. “There’s a lot of onion layers, there’s dysfunction, which there is in life, in every single family.”
Introducing her exquisite debut feature, What They Had, at Sundance, the writer-director Elizabeth Chomko addressed the movie’s initiating event — a woman with Alzheimer’s reaching the last-but-one stage, number six — only obliquely. Chomko painted a larger picture.
“Memory,” she said, “is a gift we’re given. I don’t want to take it for granted.” And so, in the film, the camera occasionally lingers on photos and home movies of Ruth (Blythe Danner) and her husband, Bert (Robert Forster), as they were in their 20s and 30s; and Ruth is tasked to carry a picture in a locket that can remind her, fleetingly, who the man across the table from her is.
Before I get too lachrymose, I should mention that the movie has a lot of great laughs: The characters speak their minds and then some. The main couple isn’t the old one but a pair of middle-aged siblings, Bridget (Hilary Swank), and Nicky (Michael Shannon), who call each names like “turkey” and “dingle-fairy” and whose conversations often end in shouting matches. Bridget has flown in from Los Angeles to take some of the burden off Nicky and has brought her daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga), who’s been thrown out of her college dorm for drinking and is almost as prickly as her uncle. Nicky is being eaten alive by multiple stressors. He has poured all his money into a high-toned bar that his father has never deigned to visit. And he feels that he alone bears the responsibility for his mother’s well-being. He’s furious that Bert won’t put her in a facility for people with dementia, even after she has wandered into the snow in a nightgown and boarded a train. Bert is a stubborn cuss.
Actually, “cuss” is the exact wrong word. A devout Catholic, Bert abhors his kids’ swearing and believes it’s his duty is to care for his wife until the bitter end. Also, he adores her. The subtext (and Über-text) of What They Had is the impact of such an overbearing father on his children’s self-esteem. Bert compelled (impelled, bullied) Bridget to marry an up-and-comer she didn’t love and now can barely stand. (Seen very briefly and played by Josh Lucas, the husband seems a nice enough fellow but dull.) Bert also insists on belittling Nicky — a bar owner — by calling him a bartender. The crux of Nicky and Bridget’s arguments is that she has power of attorney over her parents but won’t stand up to them. Nicky hectors her, she squirms, Nicky hectors her, she squirms, and nothing happens.Read More
Though its causes remain shrouded in mystery, Alzheimer’s Disease is unmistakably on the rise, and will become an ever-growing public issue as senior populations and longevity itself each continue to expand. We’re still at an early stage in terms of its dramatization, however — apart from “Away From Her” and “Still Alice,” there haven’t been that many notable screen depictions of Alzheimer’s, or of progressive dementia in general.
Actor-playwright Elizabeth Chomko’s debut feature “What They Had” is a particularly welcome addition to that so-far slim canon, since it finds ways to bring considerable humor to a grim subject, without trivializing it. This satisfying drama provides excellent roles for a fine cast, particularly Michael Shannon, Hilary Swank and Robert Forster. Highlighting the awards-worthiness of those turns will probably beat the best path to commercial success, particularly in theatrical release. Read More
Hilary’s new film will have world premiere at Sundance festivale next year.
What They Had / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Elizabeth Chomko, Producers: Keith Kjarval, Bill Holderman, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Alex Saks and Andrew Duncan) — Bridget returns home to Chicago at her brother‘s urging to deal with her mother‘s Alzheimer‘s and her father‘s reluctance to let go of their life together. Cast: Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster. World Premiere
Posted on October 28, 2017 | by Mary | in Career · Movies | Comments are off for this post
Bleecker Street has set its first five film releases for 2018. The lineup includes What They Had, Elizabeth Chomko’s debut film, based on her Nicholl-winning screenplay, starring Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon, which will bow in theaters March 16.
What They Had – March 16
From first-time writer/director Elizabeth Chomko, WHAT THEY HAD centers on a family in crisis. Bridget (Hilary Swank) returns home to Chicago at her brother’s (Michael Shannon) urging to deal with her mother’s (Blythe Danner) Alzheimer’s and her father’s (Robert Forster) reluctance to let go of their life together.
From Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s trilogy) comes a combustible caper comedy with a twist. Logan Luckyraces to Digital on November 14, 2017, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on November 28, 2017, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Logan Lucky stars Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street ), Emmy® nominee Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Paterson), Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy,” Ted), Riley Keough (“The Girlfriend Experience,” It Comes at Night), Katie Holmes (All We Had, Batman Begins), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Alien: Covenant), Dwight Yoakam (Sling Blade, Panic Room), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Civil War, The Martian), Brian Gleeson (Mother!, Snow White and the Huntsman), and Jack Quaid (“Vinyl,” The Hunger Games), with Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (The Homesman, Million Dollar Baby) and Daniel Craig (Road to Perdition, James Bond franchise).
Hoping to reverse a ‘curse’ that’s hung over his family for generations, Jimmy Logan (Tatum) hatches a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’S biggest race of the year. He convinces his bartender brother Clyde (Driver) and hairdresser sister Mellie (Keough) to help him pull everything off–but first they have to break the bomb-maker Joe Bang (Craig) out of jail in broad daylight. Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank plays a no-nonsense FBI agent determined to bring the Logans to justice and keep them from racing away with the loot in this high speed caper from director Steven Soderbergh.
BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVE TO 4K ULTRA HD, BLU-RAY™, DVD & DIGITAL:
The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes Ultra HD Blu-ray™, Blu-ray™ and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD will include all bonus features on the Blu-ray™ disc.
4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
Posted on May 09, 2017 | by Mary | in Movies | Comments are off for this post
The film, which marks Elizabeth Chomko’s feature directing debut also stars Blythe Danner, Robert Forster and Taissa Farmiga.
Bleecker Street has acquired North American rights to writer-director Elizabeth Chomko’s family drama What They Had, starring Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster and Taissa Farmiga.
The film marks Chomko’s feature directing debut and revolves around a family in crisis. Bridget (Swank) returns home to Chicago at her brother’s (Shannon) urging to deal with her mother’s (Danner) Alzheimer’s and her father’s (Forster) reluctance to let go of their life together.
Bleecker Street is planning a 2018 theatrical release.
The film was produced by Keith Kjarval, Bill Holderman, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Alex Saks and Andrew Duncan.
Chomko wrote the Nicholl-winning screenplay. Production recently wrapped in Chicago and Los Angeles.
“I was incredibly moved by Elizabeth’s story of a family working through their collective issues and the heartache of dealing with a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s,” Bleecker Street CEO Andrew Karpen said. “We know audiences will relate to the characters’ love, compassion and humor in dealing with each other.”
Added Chomko: “Making this film has been a true labor of love for me, my creative team and the magnificent cast. I could not be more delighted to include Bleecker Street among our family and have this film be part of theirs.”
Swank is an executive producer along with Wayne Godfrey, Robert Jones, Sefton Fincham, Levi Sheck and Mike Rowe.
“Elizabeth’s refreshing and heartwarming take on a subject that affects so many inspired us thoroughly,” Kjarval said. “With the tremendous cast headed up by Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, and Blythe Danner, we are confident that the very best home for this film was the incredibly classy and successful Bleecker Street whose work we have admired from afar since their formation.”
The deal was negotiated between Kent Sanderson of Bleecker Street with Avy Eschenasy on behalf of Bleecker Street and WME Global on behalf of the filmmakers. Chomko is repped by ICM Partners, Michelle Knudsen of MXN Entertainment and Tara Kole of Gang Tyer Ramer & Brown. International sales are being handled by Bloom.