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Sherrybaby

By Lee Gardner | Posted 4/2/2008

When a movie reviewer refers to an actress as "brave," that's usually code for "playing an unattractive character" and/or "frequently naked." Maggie Gyllenhaal is both in this underseen 2006 indie, but the bravery in her performance extends beneath the pasty skin spilling out of her trashy wardrobe. Gyllenhaal's Sherry is fresh out of jail, off of drugs for the first time in a long while, and barely settled in a halfway house before she starts trying to find her way back into the affections of her young daughter Alexis (Ryan Simpkins). This sounds like a good idea to no one else--most especially brother Bobby (Brad William Henke), who has taken Alexis into his home and heart--and with good reason. Sherry is a barely contained bundle of impulses and mood swings, not to mention addictions, and Gyllenhaal does a masterful job of bringing everything Sherry's feeling and thinking to the surface, be it fight-or-fuck explosions or tiny moments of slowly dawning realization breaking through the self-absorbed junkie fog. In fact, it's this emotional nakedness that makes Sherry appear in any way redeemable and helps the movie past some overly pat bits. Also, writer/director Laurie Collyer has our undying gratitude for giving craggy Mexican-American character actor Danny Trejo a full-on love scene, as well as for cutting away when she does.

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