Advertisement
 
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Amsterdam, NY ,

 

Advertisement

Review: 'Playroom' a family drama from kids' view

Thursday, February 07, 2013 - Updated: 5:29 PM

By FRANK SCHECK

The Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES -- A rare example of a grown-up story compellingly told from the perspective of children, "The Playroom" is a modest gem. This '70s-set drama depicting one tumultuous night in a suburban family's lives benefits from the admirably subtle approach by director Julia Dyer, working from a sensitive screenplay penned by her late sister Gretchen, with their brother Stephen serving as one of the producers. Unlike the dysfunctional one depicted onscreen, this family unit works together perfectly.

The title refers to where the Cantwell children -- teenage Maggie (Olivia Harris) and younger siblings Christian (Jonathon McClendon), Janie (Alexandra Doke) and Sam (Ian Veteto) -- gather to tell each other stories by candlelight.

When their parents return home one night, it soon becomes apparent that the family dynamics are frayed, with the mother Donna (Molly Parker) clearly a heavy drinker and father Martin (John Hawkes) affectionate but distracted. Still, everything seems normal enough, with Martin even conducting an impromptu spelling bee during dinner.

It isn't until the arrival of another couple (Jonathan Brooks, Lydia Mackay) for a night of cards and drinks that things begin to unravel, with Maggie catching her mother passionately kissing the family friend and the evening devolving into loud drunken arguments and a physical altercation.

These events are mostly fleetingly observed through the eyes of the children, who are otherwise preoccupying themselves with games and horseplay, including Christian accidentally falling off the roof into the pool, an event his oblivious parents fail to notice.

The film beautifully captures both the innocent bafflement of the younger children about the adults' behavior and the cynical teenage perspective of Maggie, who has just lost her virginity that day.

There are a couple of too-clever ironic touches. The film is set on the day of Patty Hearst's capture, with Maggie obviously relating to the fugitive heiress. And when she has sex with her boyfriend in the family garage, there's a cut to a shot of one of the children threading a needle.

But these are small quibbles about an otherwise quietly moving and well-wrought drama marked by superb performances, including newcomer Harris in her screen acting debut. And it's a pleasure, especially after his recent standout turns in "Winter's Bone" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene," to watch Hawkes solidly deliver the goods in a non-villainous role (as he also did in "The Sessions" this past fall).

"The Playroom," a Freestyle release, is unrated. 83 minutes.

     

Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Advertisement
Subscribe to The Recorder

 

The Recorder Sports Schedule

Most Popular

    Area sports calendar
    Monday, July 18, 2016

    Legislature to discuss CFA resolution at Tuesday meeting
    Monday, July 18, 2016

    MCSPCA rescues cats from hoarding situation
    Friday, July 22, 2016

    Four arrested for drug possession in Amsterdam
    Tuesday, July 19, 2016

    County tackles staffing, overtime in sheriff's office
    Wednesday, July 20, 2016

    Amsterdam loses bid for $10M state grant
    Wednesday, July 20, 2016

    Daniel J. 'Pucky' Agresta
    Friday, July 22, 2016

    New eatery to open this week at former Sorrenti's Pizzeria in Fonda
    Monday, July 18, 2016

    Generator project breaking ground in Amsterdam
    Tuesday, July 19, 2016

    Students urge GASD board to reconsider termination of AHS Spanish teacher
    Thursday, July 21, 2016

Advertisement

Copyright © McClary Media, Inc.

Privacy Policies: The Recorder

Contact Us

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook