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Review: The Magnificent Meyersons – “Moments where the potential of this film really shines through”

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Barbara Barrie and Kate Mulgrew in The Magnificent Meyersons

We can’t choose our family.  Our mother, father and siblings are all literally part of our DNA.  But we can choose the relationships we have with them. Morty Meyerson (Richard Kind) made one such choice decades ago when, in the midst of what seems like a mental health crisis, though it’s never really elaborated on, he leaves his family behind to seek treatment in far off Norway.  His last words, a broken promise to return, reverberate through the family for years, affecting the Meyerson clan as they navigate their lives in New York City.

Now grown up, the Meyerson children have taken vastly different directions in their lives.  Roland (Ian Kahn), the eldest son, a Wall Street type, has a perpetual fear of his child getting ill.  The eldest daughter Daphne (Jackie Burns), works in publishing and is in the midst of an important decision with her husband.  Daniel (Daniel Eric Gold) is in rabbinical school and prefers to answer congregant’s questions in a local park instead of the synagogue.  Susie (Shoshannah Stern) is in real estate and wanting to strike out on her own, especially with her bosses leveraging her deafness for their own benefit.  The four siblings grew up under the watch of Terri Meyerson (Kate Mulgrew), a paediatric oncologist who admits she wasn’t always the mother they needed.

That, in a nutshell is The Magnificent Meyersons.  Writer/director Evan Oppenheimer (Lost in Florence, A Little Game) aims to create a character-driven drama with little plot propelling these characters forward.  And this would be okay, if the character arcs were also complete and compelling, but they largely are not.  Jackie Burns’ character Daphne has the most interesting storyline, but it is wrapped up with relative expediency, despite it having the potential to create conflict and discussion.  Mostly, this film follows the Meyersons around one particular day (I think – there are some continuity issues which make this a question) where they chat to friends, or partners, or one another about their lives and the world around them.

And then, over 30 minutes into the film some unexpected news is delivered to our characters.  While I had thought this may have just changed the ballgame completely, this strange out-of-the-blue information doesn’t really go anywhere.  It shapes the discussions to a more philosophical note about the realities of time and the possibilities of alternative universes.  It shakes Daniel’s faith and already rocky belief system.  Each character has a different reaction to this news some more realistic than others.  It serves as a device to change the characters’ outlooks only, not add any plot points.

There are some sweet moments and some chuckles as we get to know this cast of characters and most of the actors fare relatively well here.  Susie’s coffee date with her girlfriend (played with warmth and enthusiasm by The Walking Dead and Sound of Metal‘s Lauren Ridloff) is particularly charming.  The shining light though, not surprisingly, is Kate Mulgrew – especially in her scenes with Barbara Barrie, the matriarch of the family.  The two experienced actors have an easy chemistry and play off of one another exceedingly well.  Richard Kind largely doesn’t show up until about 50 minutes into the movie when he is better utilized, but unfortunately it’s through a series of flashbacks that seem disjointed within the final film.

The Magnificent Meyersons is unfortunately, far from magnificent, but there are moments where the potential of this film really shines through.  This family story just needed to dig a little deeper and feel a bit more cohesive to build an emotional connection.  It seemed like there was a whole lot of everything, and yet also nothing, going on all at the same time.  Still, the final frame of this film makes me want to see where these characters go.  It’s a beautiful shot and open ended finale that only makes me wish what proceeded it had lived up to its execution.

The Magnificent Meyersons premieres as limited release August 20th in New York City and August 27th in Los Angeles, available virtually through their screening locations.

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