Academy AwardŽ Winner Diane Keaton delivers one of the most dynamic and astonishing performances of her career in this moving story about the bonds of friendships, the strength of a mother's love ... and the power of letti... more »ng go. With the simple phone greeting "Surrender, Dorothy," Natalie (Keaton) and her daughter Sara (Alexa Davalos) share the most intimate details of their lives. But when Sara's life is tragically cut short by a car accident, Natalie's grief is compounded by a shocking discovery: she may not have known her daughter after all. Determined to unlock the secrets of her daughter's heart, Natalie travels to the ramshackle beach house where Sara spent her summers and camps out with Sara's friends, including longtime childhood pal, Adam (Tom Everett Scott). But can she capture her daughter's essence and, more importantly, find a way to heal?« less
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Charles McDougall's resume includes directing episodes on 'Sex and the City', 'Desperate Housewives', Queer as Folk', 'Big Love', 'The Office', etc. so he comes with all the credentials to make the TV film version of Meg Wolitzer's novel SURRENDER, DOROTHY a success. And for the most part he manages to keep this potentially sappy story about sudden death of a loved one and than manner in which the people in her life react afloat.
Sara (Alexa Davalos) a beautiful unmarried young woman is accompanying her best friends - gay playwright Adam (Tom Everett Scott), Adam's current squeeze Shawn (Chris Pine), and married couple Maddy (Lauren German) and Peter (Josh Hopkins) with their infant son - to a house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. The group seems jolly until a trip to the local ice creamery by Adam and Sara) results in an auto accident which kills Sara. Meanwhile Sara's mother Natalie Swedlow (Diane Keaton) who has an active social life but intrusively calls here daughter constantly with the mutual greeting 'Surrender, Dorothy', is playing it up elsewhere: when she receives the phone call that Sara is dead she immediately comes to the Hamptons where her overbearing personality and grief create friction among Sara's friends. Slowly but surely Natalie uncovers secrets about each of them, thriving on talking about Sara as though doing so would bring her to life. Natalie's thirst for truth at any cost results in major changes among the group and it is only through the binding love of the departed Sara that they all eventually come together.
Diane Keaton is at her best in these roles that walk the thread between drama and comedy and her presence holds the story together. The screenplay has its moments for good lines, but it also has a lot of filler that becomes a bit heavy and morose making the actors obviously uncomfortable with the lines they are given. Yes, this story has been told many times - the impact of sudden death on the lives of those whose privacy is altered by disclosures - but the film moves along with a cast pace and has enough genuine entertainment to make it worth watching. Grady Harp, May 06"
Ciaramine | Barrington Hills, IL United States | 04/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A bittersweet story of a mother discovering her own strengths after the sudden death of her beloved daughter. As the mom, Diane Keaton creates a wonderful character who tries to make sense of the death of her only child by inviting herself to spend the summer with her daughter's friends at their summer rental. At first she tries to take control of her daughter's memories, refusing to believe her daughter did not always confide everything to her, and kept many secrets to herself. As the summer progresses, she realizes how much her daughter meant to her friends and slowly surrenders to their comfort. A wonderful cast and the charm of a seaside town add charm and warmth to this lovely film."
Yellow brick load
J. W. Hickey | Manhattan area | 05/14/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Did anyone find Daisy Buchanan charmingly eccentric when she ran down her husband's mistress and got away with it because of her social status, whose actions led to the murder of Gatsby? Or was she merely a moneyed brat with egocentric tunnel vision who expected everyone around her to accept her selfishness and perhaps even love her for it? Today, the latter interpretation may elevate what Daisy represents from social commentary to political commentary about America's grasping myopia, but the yuppies and unmatronly "witch from Jersey" in this movie are merely too delighted with their own shallowness to spend two hours with.
The film begins with a car crash, followed by a flashback of reckless driving as a central character giggles with self-delight behind the wheel. She and her closest male friend (gay, of course, in these plots, whose mostly mute boyfriend is a contrived composite from subscription-theater Broadway)continue to giggle condescendingly when they encounter the (sensibly wary) owner of a summer house and an ice cream vendor equivalent to the "socially inferior" husband of Daisy Buchanan's mistress. We are intended (according to Diane Keaton in one of the voice-over commentaries) to interpret the yuppies' shrugging disdain as "vitaity" and free-spiritedness: a youthful elan indulged before tragedy makes them grow up. If the audience does not find their frivolousness quite as charming as they do themselves, the rest of the movie does little to keep the viewer watching.
The mother, played by Keaton, is rooted in anything but credible reality. She has it all: money, an attentive lover, a dubious mutual admiration with her daughter, and utter disregard for the grieving or general feelings of others. It is easy to see where her daughter acquired her own immaturity and self-centeredness. Apparently, the focus of the plot is to show how the mother's insensitive meddling (rationalized as grief) forces the yuppie munchkins to grow up and face their thirties. But her treatment of them is rightfullly met with their bewilderment. This woman is not Auntie Mame or Mother Courage; she's merely a monster.
Like daughter, like mother. Keaton's character is driving when she is told on the phone that her daughter is dead. She responds by letting go of the steering wheel and pumping her expensive car's gas peddle, causing a multi-car crash-up. The film's director says in his commentary that he wanted to dramatize the impact of the death on the mother. But no mention is made thereafter of legal or physica implications of this "accident." The character point has been established, and "Daisy Buchanan" gets away without a scratch nor do any of the yuppies (who don't attend their best friend's funeral because the mother does not invite them!) make the slightest reference to this second car calamity and its implications: narrative indulgence erases any semblance of real-life credibility. This becomes a motif throughout the rest of the film.
Pauline Kael once dismissed Bette Davis tear-jerkers like DARK VICTORY because she found it difficult to surrender to the alleged suffering and alleged sacrifices of the super-rich. But this movie more closely resembles Ken Olin's TV soap BROTHERS AND SISTERS, in which self-involved "pretties" confide secrets to each other and the audience waits patiently for those confidences to be betrayed. That's entertainment?
A physically attractive cast does the best it can, but is burdened by roles that only exist in an upscale TV and Broadway fantasy world. Wearing a daughter's ruby slippers to her funeral and an elaborate kimono for a beach party is not quirky; it's not even sitcom; it's a TV commercial during a sitcom.
Toto, from the git-go these losers aren't in Oz any more (the plot's POV seems more that of a stereotyped gay playwright than that of a female novelist), and one suspects that they've only told themselves they'd ever actually travelled there.
This movie is just plain awful."
Diane Keaton as a mother trying to come to terms with her da
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Natalie Swedlow (Diane Keaton) and her daughter Sara (Alexa Davalos) certainly appear to have a close relationship. Mom will call and say, "Surrender, Dorothy," a reference to their yearly rituals of watching "The Wizard of Oz" when Sara was a kid. Mom will call up first thing in the morning on her cell phones and the two share a laugh as they let each other hear the sound of the man snoring in their bed. So they seem like a particularly close mother and daughter. The only thing is that it is always mom who makes the phone calls and always mom who uses the cute phrase. It would seem that only mom does not know that she is not on the same wavelength with her daughter.
Sara is spending the summer on the seashore in a place she rents with her friends. Her best gal pal is Maddy (Lauren German), who is married to Peter (Josh Hopkins), and who have a new baby. Sara's best guy pal is Adam (Tom Everett Scott), a playwright, who has a new lover, Shawn (Chris Pine). Things are going fine, except for the constant phone calls from her mom, and then there is a car accident and Sara ends up dead. Natalie is so distraught she does not let any of Sara's friends attend the funeral. In fact she is the only mourner there. But then three sleepless days and nights later Natalie shows up at the house with two bags of groceries, which is supposedly suppose to buy off her daughter's friends so that they will tell her what she wants to know about Sara's final days.
Peter argues for cutting Natalie some slack; after all, she just lost her daughter. But Adam, denied the opportunity to attend his best friend's funeral and rebuffed in his request to have a memento by which to remember Sara, wants her gone. Natalie sleeps for two days and then wakes up and starts cleaning, listening on Sara's headsets to her music and singing along. Sara was a student of Japan: she spoke the language, wore a kimono, and did the whole tea ceremony bit. So both figuratively and literally she was in a different world from her mother, who never seemed to notice. Natalie can dress in the kimono and sing in Japanese, but it does not bring her closer to her daughter. Instead it only hurts Sara's friends, who are also in the process of grieving and having to put up with Natalie's invasiveness and her personal attacks. The key dynamic here is that we feel sympathy for Natalie for her situation while at the same time deploring her actions.
Keaton's performance is what holds everything together here, but the teleplay by Matthew McDuffie based on Meg Wolitzer's novel, is one that keeps taking a step backwards to counter the step's forward. The basic situation is certainly dramatic, as a mother learns she did not know her daughter and then tries to catch up. But then we have a moment where Natalie is talking about Woody Allen's film "Interiors," which Keaton was in, and although it is not meant to be a moment of self-reflexivity it certainly becomes one. Then there is the function of convenience in this 2006 television movie, involving baby monitors and finding the one passage in a diary that goes right for the jugular. Even "The Wizard of Oz" bits get a bit heavy handed (either the red slippers or the cloud writing will strike you as being too much). Still, having Diane Keaton in this one forgives a lot of these missteps."
Let's send Tom Everett Scott off to the old College of Oscul
JUST A REVIEWER2 | 07/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
Gracious, what a great job reviewer Lawrance M. Bernabo has done in "synop-sizing" this film. But noticeably, no one has mentioned performances (other than some bit or two about the famous Diane Keaton's characterization), so please let me jump in here.
Depth of performance is not this film's strong point. Keaton's work here is kind of "slide by"........just not her best. There's a noticeable tendency to act out in an over-the-top manner---though she's usually able to pull it back in before things get too messy.
Career-wise, Josh Hopkins and Scott, both the same age, share about the same number of filmed performances, with Scott holding an edge in movie productions, as opposed to TV works. These are definitely the male leads of this production, but it is Hopkins, as Peter, who becomes head and shoulders the standout. He is quite, quite good, and it has to be asked why he's not further up the scale of stardom at this point (lack of good agency representation, perhaps). And if there's a breath of fresh air in all this, it's Chris Pine's performance as a ebullient Shawn. He's a cutie, a sweetie, and he shines. Nothing keeps his character down.
Playing gay character, Adam, in this work, Scott is perhaps surprisingly at nowhere near the performance level of those performers already mentioned. His past work experience would lead one to expect otherwise, but, sadly, that is not the case. When Peter calls Adam a "Little Bitch" at one point in the film, he comes very close to describing what is my take on Scott's performance: someone whose characterization is "diva-ish"---which I believe is really over the top, as opposed to the way in which this part should be played. More, when he's not doing that, his delivery just seems flat (see Tom run, see Tom run after Spot). So, for anyone reading this who might have something to do with assisting Scott in selecting future roles, please have him refrain from those involving a gay character. I just don't see that he has it in him; his one gay interaction with another player, a kiss with Shawn, is a disaster (it shouldn't be like giving your grandmother a peck; can't you do better than to give us a lips-glued-shut kiss?). Why take on any role like this if you can't throw yourself into it?
This production, in my opinion, is not one worth the expense of adding to your DVD collection.