Chicago sage Don Selle, with an enviable track record on such matters, named Maggie Gyllenhaal as 2006’s best actress for sherrybaby, and that recommendation was enough to rent it. Written and directed by New Jersey born and raised Laurie Collyer, the film takes place in the state and it’s about Sherry, after being released from prison for stealing money to feed her drug habit, trying to reestablish ties with her young daughter Alexis while under the watchful eyes of family and local authorities. It’s a decent “home made” movie, and with a few minor cuts will end up on Lifetime any minute, but it’s seen-it-all-before perfunctory, with the expected pitfalls, emotional crashes, drug relapses. And, no surprise either, Daddy Dearest as handy culprit. The only thing missing—and oh, how lucky the viewers—is the obligatory lezbo stuff. (A living room scene with Sherry’s sister-in-law warned of its imminent threat.) Two honest bits: the parole system’s unwillingness to send ex-cons violating the rules back to serve additional time because prisons don’t want them and the ending. Gyllenhaal manages to carry on in spite of the poor and difficult-to-respond-to performance by the child Ryan Simpkins as Alexis. (When noticing that she’s getting lines supplied to her off camera, you wonder, beyond the economics of an independent production, why she wasn’t replaced.) An unattractive droopiness hangs on Gyllenhaal’s frame and she uses it for the character; the slack does the acting.

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.