Leland Orser is an actor. You’ve seen his face a lot over the years playing deranged or demented or despondent characters. He is married to Jeanne Tripplehorn, who is probably better known from the HBO series Big Love and movies like Basic Instinct and Waterworld. Orser decided to write and direct his first movie and have his wife play his wife in the movie. It is an intense character study that includes other top actors like Laura Linney, Eliot Gould, Kyle Chandler, Jason Ritter and Julie White. Everyone in the movie seems to be in support of Jeanne Tripplehorn, who has been given quite a character to play.
Tripplehorn plays someone who seems to be falling apart. The movie starts with her husband on top of her while she stares distractedly out the window. Their relationship seems to become even more disjointed as the day begins. They both begin to completely unravel. It takes a while to get an idea what might be going on. But this movie is in no hurry to clear things up for the viewer.
He leaves, and she freaks out. She leaves, and he goes back. She gets a motel. He starts acting like a three-year-old alone in the house. She meets her friend who tries desperately to be the best friend in the world, but that only seems to exasperate and infuriate Tripplehorn. The clerk in the hotel is curious about her because she seems so distracted and confused. She drinks alone in the bar, attracting the attention of another barfly. He seems smitten by her, but she wanders off. An encounter in the stairwell turns ugly, but she just wants to forget all about it. She goes to visit a doctor, but in a bizarre coincidence sees another doctor in the building with the same name. This doctor (played by Linney) is a grief counselor, and she soon determines that is the source of Tripplehorn’s problem, but they don’t really seem to get anywhere. She goes to the other doctor (played by Gould), and he finds some significant health issues. While all this is going on, the husband is going crazier and crazier in the house playing with kids’ toys and Froot Loops in his tidy whities.
It should be clear that this is great fun for all the actors. There are all kinds of awkward and offbeat situations to play. Orser concocted this as a project for his wife, and he gives her a lot of acting to do.
Tripplehorn has always been an appealing and intelligent actor with a Sphinx-like face. The situation is revealed slowly, but you know early on it must be a child who has died. The unhappiness that devolves into insanity is born of grief. It is Tripplehorn who has the most interesting dramatic arc and seems to have the greatest growth. Can a couple survive the death of a child? It’s an important question and it is handled sincerely and sensitively, but there is some sense that something is missing. The couple spends most of the movie apart, but there is a hint they can somehow come together and console each other.
But we don’t really know and never find out. When you see a great classic like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, you really do see a master class in acting. You see two great actors going head to head, and we fill in the spaces between the lines to learn everything about their tragedy and love for each other. Here we don’t see that. We see lots of spaces between lines and spaces between events and conclusions hinted at but never resolved. It is a good effort to deal with a difficult subject but doesn’t fully deliver.
I do love all the actors in this movie, and they all do very well with their parts, especially Tripplehorn. It is her movie from start to finish and a great showcase to show off her talents. But that’s the problem. It’s a great audition, but not a great movie.