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Father Knows Shit

Parker Posey and Demi Moore nail a pair of sisters dealing with their dementia-addled dad


Getting ripped: The party girl and GI Jane try to figure out what to do about dear, old dad.

Happy Tears

Rated:R
Director:Mitchell Lichtenstein
Cast:Demi Moore, Parker Posey, Rip Torn, Ellen Barkin, Sebastian Roché
Release Date:2010
Genre:Comedy, Drama

Opens Feb. 19 at the Charles Theatre

By Wendy Ward | Posted 2/19/2010

Jayne (Parker Posey) in pencil skirt, old lady chic (think Marc Jacobs) salmon-colored car coat, and brand new so-dark-blue-you-can-only-tell-they're-not-black-in-the-sunlight high-heeled boots drags her large Louis Vuitton rollie up the front steps of a decrepit old Victorian house in Pittsburgh while yelling for Laura, her sister. Finally, she gives up as Laura (Demi Moore) opens the door with a wry smile on her face and, offering no help, ushering her in with an inquisitive What have you done with your face, it looks different remark, to which Laura replies, "Nothing. What have you done?"

And boom. Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein's Happy Tears brings back Posey (last really seen in 2007's Broken English) as an emotional wreck, deadpan as ever, and revives Moore with a grown-up role that she completely nails. These sisters, who both live in San Francisco, are dealing with their father, a man they occasionally call Joe (Rip Torn), who they are losing to dementia. Laura is the older, responsible one with kids and a job working with the environment (water safety). She wears her long dark hair in a natural wave, peasant shirts, baggy jeans, and Birkenstocks. Operating on an practical level, she doesn't emotionalize Joe's dementia, their mother's death years ago, or even the eventual loss of the family house—she just wants to hand over the immediate day-to-day of watching Joe to Jayne so she can figure out the next step.

Jayne is a hot little mess whose flights of fantasy—such as visions of a salesman vulture selling her those $2,000 dollar blue/black boots or dancing with her husband on an exotic beach while learning of her father's diagnosis—allow her to escape the charged atmosphere of her current reality. Her husband, the son of a deceased but successful artist, is falling apart as he attempts to execute his father's artwork. And her childhood slips away as her dad loses his mind and the material existence of being young—the house she grew up in with her mother's things still in it—is destined to be sold.

Randy and crass, Joe has a drop-in "nurse" Shelly (brilliantly played by Ellen Barkin) who is just a cracked-out hooker in tight jeans and white stilettos whose moments of lucidity offer a soundboard for the unstable Jayne and her mommy issues. Crazy Joe insists that he has a buried treasure for his girls in the backyard—a claim Laura ignores and Jayne refuses to disbelieve, responses that illustrate the distance between two women. Although only a few years apart, growing up created a huge divide in what they believe to be true about their shared childhood. A car crash on the way to take Laura to the airport means they are all still in the Pittsburgh house for a little bit longer—time they need to figure out what family really means.

E-mail Wendy Ward

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