NOSTALGIA – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The opening for Nostalgia is as vague as most of the movie is. We see Daniel (John Ortiz) at a diner complementing his pregnant waitress (Shinelle Azoroh) on the necklace and ring she’s wearing. He asks if it’s worth a lot, an odd question for a stranger to ask. She blushes at the question and says it belonged to someone she loved and that the are worth a lot to her. With that he smiles and gives her a big tip as he leaves.
In that first two-minute exchange at the beginning of the film the whole premise of the film is laid out before you. The film is about our relationship to who and what we have around us in our lives. What they're worth to us both financially and emotionally. Can what we hold in our hands be the same as what we hold in our hearts?
It’s told in vignettes that, at first, all center around Daniel who ends up being an insurance adjuster who often meets people at the worst times in their lives; people like Ronnie (Bruce Dern) who's granddaughter Bethany (Amber Tamblyn) is having his home appraised to make sure that there's nothing expensive being overlooked in preparation for him dying. It's not his things that she really wants, it’s the grandfather she remembers who was kind and loving until his wife passed.
Next, we see Daniel at another location dealing with Helen (Ellen Burstyn) who is widowed and just lost everything she owns because her house burned to the ground. She managed to pull a few things out of the burning house with her including her husband Ned’s beloved-signed baseball. Ellen Burstyn give a great turn as a shell shocked woman that has survived losing her husband and now her home.
There's a scene with Daniel when he's at the site of the burnt house all-alone. He photographs and takes in all the devastation and the items that must have meant so much to Helen. He becomes more than just an insurance adjuster as he pontificates on the devastation, he reminded me of the Angels in Wim Wenders 1987 film Wings Of Desire, as they watched the goings on here on Earth, a part of it but untouched by it at the same time. When he’s done surveying the site, he actually pretends that there's a front door still standing and closes it behind him as he leaves the property. That moment got me. It was a kind of respect for what was lost.
After that the rest of the stories are actually tied together by Ned’s’ baseball that Helen had saved from the fire.
Nostalgia is a study of letting go even with when the objects are very dear. The acting is top notch, I dare you not to cry during at least one if not two parts of the story as people experience heart crushing loss. However, the ways the rest of the vignettes are tied together is a little clunky and disjointed.
This film wanted to be in the class of 1999’s Magnolia or 2004’s Crash, both great ensemble films that managed to sew different story lines together flawlessly. Unfortunately for Nostalgia, the only consistent thing in the film is the somber mood. For that reason alone I’m giving this film a C+ Rating. It’s worth seeing once it's out on VOD, or at a matinee, but not worth paying full price for it in the theaters.
Directed by Mark Pellington
Written By Alex Ross Perry, Mark Pellington
Selig Rating C+
Running Time 114 min
Limited Release Angelika Film Center Dallas & Plano
Starring: Hugo Armstrong, Annalise Basso, Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, James Le Gros, John Ortiz
Movie Site: https://bleeckerstreetmedia.com/nostalgia
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.