The Stone Angel

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Posted July 10, 2008 in Film

The only way to enjoy Kari Skogland’s epic portrait of a miserable woman named Hagar (Ellen Burstyn) is to reframe it as Scary Movie for weepies. This generic stew of tearjerker clichés crams in everything from the mother died in childbirth and the unsanctioned wedding to the no good husband and Cain and Abel offspring. Hagar’s oldest son Marvin (Dylan Baker) wants to put her in a nursing home. After quipping that she “never cared much for army life,” Hagar escapes to the ruins of her old home where she spends several implausible days toking up and reminiscing about everything terrible that ever happened to her. If there’s a lesson to be gleaned from her litany of bad decisions and worse repercussions, it’s that stubborn, bitter old women are forged by heartache. Skogland’s path to revealing her no-brainer truism avoids the melodramatic peaks of Margaret Laurence’s novel, preferring to reveal each tragedy through clunky exposition. One scene starts, “I figured after Matt died . . . ” The stone angel of the title is her mother’s headstone, but it’s also a clear stand-in for Hagar’s hopes, deadened by struggle, and the way audiences feel about themselves after taking note that two hours of her suffering hasn’t squeezed out one tear. (Amy Nicholson)


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