Movie Review: Wallowing Family Drama 'Nostalgia' Is a Bitter and Moody Pill

By Terry, Josh | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), March 5, 2018 | Go to article overview

Movie Review: Wallowing Family Drama 'Nostalgia' Is a Bitter and Moody Pill


Terry, Josh, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


"NOSTALGIA" — 2 stars — Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener; R (some language); in general release

“Nostalgia” is a 114-minute film that feels like it could have made its point as a 20-minute short. Instead, director Mark Pellington’s moody effort meanders from place to place, lingering ponderously and leaving audiences with a message that feels a little too ambiguous.

Meant to be a meditation on material and not-so-material attachments, “Nostalgia” opens with an insurance agent named Daniel (John Ortiz) who has been called in to inspect the property of an elderly man named Ronnie (Bruce Dern). After Daniel deals with Ronnie and his concerned granddaughter (Amber Tamblyn), he next turns up at the aftermath of a house fire, where he meets a widow named Helen (Ellen Burstyn).

But right as we think “Nostalgia” is going to follow Daniel through a series of poignant encounters with various bereaved clients, the story instead attaches to Helen as she travels to Las Vegas to appraise one of the few valuables to survive the fire: a baseball autographed by Ted Williams.

Here, Helen meets a memorabilia dealer named Will (Jon Hamm), and the two have a touching conversation about how her family connection to the ball will be lost once it enters the collector’s market. And that’s the last we see of Helen, because now “Nostalgia” decides to follow Will as he travels to his childhood home to scour through his parents’ old belongings with his sister Donna (Catherine Keener).

Will is the closest thing to a protagonist in a film that isn’t quite an ensemble piece, and he gets the closest thing to a character arc as he’s forced to consider the genuine value of the goods people such as Helen and his parents cling to for years and years. …

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