Categories Articles & Interviews Movies

Michael Shannon and Hilary Swank’s What They Had: An Alzheimer’s Story That’s Both Heartbreaking and … Funny

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. Continue reading Michael Shannon and Hilary Swank’s What They Had: An Alzheimer’s Story That’s Both Heartbreaking and … Funny

Categories Articles & Interviews Movies

Sundance Film Review: ‘What They Had’

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.
Continue reading Sundance Film Review: ‘What They Had’

Categories Appearances Career Movies

2018 Sundance lineup

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

Source: http://ew.com/

Categories Career Movies

Bleecker Street Sets Release Date For What They Had

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.

Source: http://deadline.com