Tammy’s Always Dying

Sooooo…..the whole Felicity Huffman thing….do we care? Is it going to destroy her career? Is it going to harm the box office of films she stars in? Based on past Hollywood type eff ups and worse, I don’t think so. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Robert Downey Jr., Casey Affleck…they all keep making films. Though they are all men and the public does not tend to have a great track record when it comes to equal treatment for women, soooo….

That being said, Felicity Huffman has a new film out. It is Tammy’s Always Dying and is directed by Amy Jo Johnson (first film), who some out there will recognize her name from her time on the popular television series Felicity. Despite all the baggage Huffman now brings, we shouldn’t forget that she is a good actress, able to play many different types of characters.

Here she is Tammy (Felicity Huffman – from television’s Desperate Housewives), a mentally unstable middle aged, divorced, unemployed, and alcoholic woman. Each end of month, when her welfare money has run out, she walks over to her small town’s bridge and threatens to throw herself off. This results in her daughter Catherine (Anastasia Phillips – from television’s Reign), who has remained living in their deadend small town because of Tammy, racing to stop her.

Things become more strained after Tammy is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Catherine moves out of her apartment to move in with her mother. The longing for something bigger…better, doesn’t leave her, however. This comes to a head when she decides to get her mother’s story onto a local talk show in order to get some money out of it. The talk show agent (Lauren Holly – What Women Want, Dumb and Dumber) tells Catherine that in order to get maximum money she is going to have to really sell the sad story. Really cry on camera.

Another wrench is thrown into Catherine’s plans when unexpectedly, her mother begins to recover. Now, when she really wants her to, Tammy just won’t die. Ironic. Will Catherine be happy or not that Tammy is still with her?

Mother-daughter relationships have often been delved into in film. Films like Lady Bird, Mermaids, Terms of Endearment, and Precious have gone over this unique and often tricky relationship. Here we have another one which is dysfunctional and yet they still love one another.

Like life of late, there are plenty of ups and downs in this film. Amazingly, what is rather strong in the film is the rather delicate humour which is woven throughout. Like the thinnest of strings it holds everything together. Precariously, but successfully. Humour is how mother and daughter seem to have decided to get through their pretty pathetic lives. Hey, we all need laughter. It is a tricky thing to make this work, but the combo of the acting by Huffman and Phillips along with the dark, but truthful writing of Joanne Sarazan (short I Came Here Alone) make for a solid pairing.

Writing overall is good in that this is not your typical cancer heartbreaker. The dark humour, oddness and steady direction by Johnson ensure that. Though this is her debut, Johnson shows plenty of confidence. Required because this is a tricky tale to tell. She does not allow it to fall wayside into the usual tropes and cliches of many cancer films. Rather than being sad it is depressing. But that is not all due to the diagnosis, rather the lives these two women are leading. Both unhappy and struggling to keep their heads above water.

What does slow things down (not good as the film is under 90 minutes long) is how long it takes to get things going. Some might give up on the film before the good stuff starts happening. Be patient and you will be happier than Tammy that you did.

Available on the following Canadian platforms:
Rogers, Bell, Telus, Shaw, Sasktel, Cogeco, iTunes, Sony Playstation, MTS,
Microsoft Video and Google Play.

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