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“Diane” Is A Showcase For The Brilliant Mary Kay Place

Mary Kay Place is an underrated actress. She’s the sort of character actress who pops up in things and makes them better, but rarely has the focus on herself. Place does her job and does it well, which is an essential skill in cinema. This week, however, she finally gets a showcase all to herself, as Diane finally comes to theaters. Having first screened last year on the festival circuit, including at the Tribeca Film Festival, it now hits screens. The flick itself is solid, but Place is above and beyond. She easily puts forward one of the best performances by anyone, actor or actress, so far in 2019.

The movie is a character study/independent drama, focusing on the title character of Diane (Place), a woman who puts everyone ahead of herself. She spends her days helping others as best she can, with the most of her attention focused on what seems like a last ditch attempt to get help for her drug-addicted son Brian (Jake Lacy). At the same time, she’s dealing with friends getting older and sicker, relatives dying, and memories from her past that have haunted her. It’s a lot for anyone to handle, and try as she might, Diane is struggling. That’s where the second half of the plot kicks in, as others begin to notice how she’s suffering due to all of this. Everyone comes before her, and it’s taking a toll on Diane at last. Kent Jones writes and directs, with the solid supporting cast including Deirdre O’Connell, Andrea Martin, Estelle Parsons, Phyllis Somerville, Joyce Van Patten, and more. Jeremiah Bornfield composed the score, while Wyatt Garfield handled the cinematography. Count Martin Scorsese among the Executive Producers, showing one notable filmmaker who’s a big fan of this one.

Without question, Mary Kay Place is why you see Diane. The film is a showcase for her in a way she’s never before received. It’s one of the year’s best turns, bar none. This indie drama contains a performance from Place that Academy Award voters should keep in mind at the end of the year. Her contention is likely a long shot, but Oscar nominees like this don’t happen unless you start the conversation early and repeat it often. Her work is just that good here. She inhabits this character and makes her feel like someone you’ve known for your entire life.

Filmmaker Kent Jones keeps things very rigid and focused on her leading lady. It’s somewhat repetitive, though largely by design, making Diane somewhat of a long 95 minute movie. Some unusual third act developments turn things in a different direction, which you may or may not jive with, though Place remains the focus. Jones’ direction is unfussy, while his script is incredibly naturalistic. The conversations all sound like real ones you’d hear at a buffet, or a gathering of friend/family, or anywhere else the film takes us. That’s an accomplishment. When he goes for dramatics, things are a bit unbalanced, but the more just gives Place the center stage, the better Diane fares.

This weekend, audiences who have been yearning for a strong female performance should be on the lookout for Diane. It’s opening in limited release and will be an absolute godsend for anyone who’s been hoping for Place to get a leading lady role. She sinks her teeth into this one and runs away with the movie. Jones lets her shine, and good on him for that. The film is on the indie side, but even if that’s not normally your thing, Place will lead you through it. Her work is nomination worthy, as mentioned above. Give it a look and you’ll see why…

Be sure to check out Diane, in theaters starting on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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