Shue is wonderful in a so-so film
that echoes deeply of 'Charly'
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
When we look at the disabled, often all we truly see is their disability. The hardest thing for us so-called normal folk is to look beyond and see the person within. This is often true of those who love the disabled, as well.
Buck McKay ("Erin Brockovich's" Aaron Eckhart) has a good job, a great loft in trendy Venice (California, not Italy) and a busy social calendar. He's restoring a vintage sailboat. He is leading a quietly fulfilling, productive life. Then, he gets a letter from the state of California.
The care facililty at Bellevue is being shut down due to funding constraints. What does this have to do with McKay? That's where his sister, Molly (Elisabeth Shue) has been staying for a number of years, ever since both their parents died in a car crash. She's autistic, with the emotional and mental state of a three-year-old.
Immediately, Buck's life is thrown into chaos. He loses his job when Molly prances into an important meeting naked because she's too warm (although if Elisabeth Shue pranced into one of my meetings naked, I'd probably give her brother a promotion). The constant attention that his sister requires has emptied his social calendar. Yes, it's true: The Buck stopped there.
A lifeline is thrown when Sam (Thomas Jane), a learning-disabled orderly who had developed a rapport with Molly at Bellevue, gets a new job at a new clinic. Doctors at this clinic are looking to perform experimental surgery that would activate the portion of her brain that isn't functioning. Molly is an exceptional candidate for the surgery. The result would be the mental and emotional flowering of a young woman her self-absorbed brother has never taken the trouble to get to know. But what science giveth, capricious fate often taketh away.
If this sounds familiar, there's a good reason for it. The plot is very similar to Daniel Keyes' classic novella "Flowers for Algernon," which later was made into the gripping Cliff Robertson movie "Charly." Both of those versions are far superior to this distaff version, but "Molly" is not without its charm.
Shue, an Oscar nominee for "Leaving Las Vegas," has without much fanfare become an impressive acting talent. Here, she plays a woman buffeted by a world she scarcely understands. Alternately full-of-life joyous and angry and frightened, she displays her emotions vividly and without reservation. The supporting cast of mostly unknowns ("Ally McBeal's" Lucy Liu makes a brief appearance) is solid.
The problem here is predictabilty. The story is just too close to "Charly" for my own personal comfort. While it does raise the important issue of considering the person behind the disability, "Molly" often flails and wallows in maudlin sentiment, like a pig in a mudhole. During those periods, the movie drags, big time.
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See cast, credit and other details about "Molly" at Internet Movie Data Base.