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Is it real mystery? Hilary Swank’s bad luck with the script

We’ve seen this regularly at the beginning of crime dramas: immersive shots of the downtown cityscape from the vantage point of a drone camera.

In “The Good Mother,” it’s “all” Albany, New York, and the foreground highway mess is backed up by one of the most humble skylines in screen history. “Albany noir” is the phrase used by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, director and co-writer of “The Good Mother,” for the 2016 mystery film starring Times Union reporter Hilary Swankas Marissa, who lives under a cloud of loss and alcohol. and grief.

Marissa’s husband: died five years ago. His younger son, Michael, is killed in the opening minutes in a drug-related revenge attack. A user as well as a dealer, Michael smuggled fentanyl-added heroin and filled the streets of America. At the funeral, Marissa spies on Michael’s girlfriend, Paige (Olivia Cooke), who is herself a recovering user. Marissa, who is walking towards her as the coffin is being lowered, hits Paige just as she tells her she is pregnant.

These are extremely intense opening moments. Then the rhythm relaxes until it becomes horizontal. The story in “Good Mom” ​​leads to a cautious alliance between Marissa and Paige, who set out to find her killer, known for Michael’s menacing tattoo on his hand. They are helped by Marissa’s eldest son (Jack Reynor), an Albany police officer who is also about to become a parent. He suspects the culprit is Michael’s drug dealer friend Ducky. So are things as they seem? Well, there’s a reason they’re called “unexpected events in the plot” rather than “plots that don’t deviate from what was expected.”

The script that Madison Harrison co-wrote is a weird, fleeting beast: It overloads on the first go and then paddles around pausing for non-verbal character work – Marissa drinks, thinks, drives, meditates, watches. It’s as if “Good Mom” ​​took the wrong lessons from “Sharp Objects.” HBO eight-part Amy Adams driving aimlessly or (better) HBO “Mare of Easttown.”

This brings us to Swank, who didn’t get the chance he deserved. Two Oscars; lots of powerful work; I guess it’s a rich and full life. So where is the next big role for him? At this point he must have been disappointed that he couldn’t find “Sharp Objects” or “East Town”; It throws the dice on short-lived traditional series (like “Alaska Daily” was a narrative about a newspaper reporter like “The Good Mother” and “Sharp Objects”) and obscure features. As Marissa, in a largely recessive and reactive role, she shuts the lid on tight and her muttered resentments come in. However, the script points out guilt very early and very clearly to the main character. And that’s a story that might have worked better as a limited series, just to publish it a little.

Note to future writers of America: Avoid naming a character “Ducky” and then other characters saying that name (“Ducky? Ducky! Ducky, where are you?) Duck!”) The “Sesame Street” song often enough to push memories of “Put Down the Duckie” to the forefront of your brain, thus eroding even your small investment in that casual Albany noir. The strongest moments of “The Good Mother” belong to Chicago-trained Karen Aldridge. He handles things so well in his monologue about his character’s grief and loss that his exit from the narrative becomes just another ah-well factor in the casual Albany noir.

“Good Mom” — 2 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: R (for language throughout, some violent content, and drug material)

Running time: 1:29

How to watch: It hits theaters on August 31st.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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