“Before You Know It”

LOUISA:  3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Growing up sucks, especially when you’re in your thirties. Just ask polar opposite sisters Rachel (Hannah Pearl Utt) and Jackie (Jen Tullock), two siblings living with their eccentric playwright father (Mandy Patinkin) above a small theater space they own in New York City.

Rachel is a straight laced oddball who acts as stage manager for the theater, and wacky Jackie is a Bette Midler type with a preteen daughter of her own (Oona Yaffe). When tragedy suddenly strikes, the two women learn their believed-to-be dead mother Sherrell (Judith Light) is actually alive and is a famous soap opera star. This news turns their grief-stricken world upside down as the two sisters find themselves in a real life dysfunctional soap opera of their own.

Utt, who co-wrote the script with her co-star Tullock, also directs the film. This is the first feature from these two extremely talented women, and their collaboration feels like a relaxed match made in Heaven. It will be satisfying to watch them grow with future projects.

The film has a small, personal feel, one that stems from the in-depth involvement of these two women. The story is one of insecurity, veracity, and vulnerability, a little movie with a natural sincerity that you won’t find in huge studio films. These are likable, original characters with just enough quirk and candor to make you root for them, even as their family dynamics are slowing tearing them apart.

The performances are terrific, especially Light as the aging soap star. Tullock and Utt have an easy onscreen rapport. The film flips the script a bit on the obligations of family and runs with a theme of co-dependence and what, if anything, parents owe their children. Everyone seems stuck in a rut, finding it impossible to grow up.

This is the type of intimate feature film that defies classification. The irony of their own soap-like farce is played for laughs but is also earnest in its exploration of what it takes to finally become a grownup.

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