Laura Linney and Maggie Smith in The Miracle Club
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘The Miracle Club’ review: Laura Linney and Maggie Smith go to Lourdes in stale comedy Beyond Salvation

‘The Miracle Club’ review: Laura Linney and Maggie Smith go to Lourdes in stale comedy Beyond Salvation

Laura Linney and Maggie Smith in The Miracle Club

On paper, Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s ‘The Miracle Club’ looks like it should be a shattering slam dunk for the kind of folks whose favorite movies all share the words ‘and Maggie Smith’ in their opening credits, but this corny Irish film The trifle about a girls’ trip to Lourdes is so chalky and gritty that its all-star cast (Laura Linney! Kathy Bates! Stephen Rea!) have no choice but to chew through the scenery. This is a glaring problem in a film whose location is so starkly greenscreened behind the actors that the Apparition Cave looks like a leftover backdrop from “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

Occasionally sweet despite its general blandness, “The Miracle Club” may have its heart in the right place, but it beats at all in a 1967-set period piece that swoons at the sight of its own blood, let alone a movie which repeatedly dilutes the most dramatic undercurrents of its story with a comic subplot that would have been stale In 1967. With their wives abroad, the husbands are forced to take care of their children and home for the first time in their lives, and if you think these men know how to change a nappy… you might want to think again!

What’s most notable about that subplot isn’t the “jokes” (a Man purchase grocery shop!?), but rather how awkwardly he clings to a story that would seem ready to welcome such comic relief — a story that offers all-too-gentle pushback against the burdens of self-denial that patriarchies force women to bear on their own. Each of the heroines of “The Miracle Club” has her own cross to bear, and each of them carried it herself.

Quite touchy but even sharper than she lets on, Lily Fox (Smith) is still haunted by the loss of a son her husband prefers to forget. Her friend Eileen Dunne (Bates) does too many children, but appears even more bitter about it, partly because her husband (Rea) is so useless, and partly because she was recently rewarded for her hard work with an undiagnosed lump in her right breast. Dolly (played by spirited newcomer Agnes O’Casey) is only twenty, but she finds common ground through her suffering: Not only does she have an emotionally abusive partner, but Dolly also blames herself for the fact that the six-year-old old moppet they share still refuses to talk.

“The Miracle Club” asks us to believe that these three women bonded through the singing group they formed to win their church talent show, just like it asks us to believe that everyone in the congregation would skip the funeral of the woman who did it. arranged in to attend the event (the late Chrissie’s all-Americanized daughter, played by Linney, is the only one who shows up). He asks us to believe the little boy that Actually winner of the contest would lose the top prize – a free trip to Lourdes – to the trio of mothers in second place because they are all in obvious need of spiritual healing.

Most egregiously of all, she asks us to believe that Chrissie chooses to go with her at the last second (dramatically standing in front of the bus as it departs), despite the fact that she and her dead mother’s friends seem to hate each other. more for reasons that won’t be fully explained until the climactic scene that poignantly hints at the delicate drama that could have been. When “The Miracle Club” arrives in Lourdes at the end of Act I, simply accepting its premise requires a greater leap of faith than hoping that a magic bath might have the power to cure cancer.

It’s all the more unfortunate that “The Miracle Club” has to feel so divorced from reality because co-writer Jimmy Smallhorne brings shades of lived-in sincerity to his original idea, while production designer John Hand and costume designer Judith Williams champion Ballygar’s hardknock community with a tactile sense of place. Chrissie’s yellow pea jacket looks like it was ripped out of a Doris Day musical and, when splashed against the gray terraced houses of working-class Dublin, says more about expats’ departure from Ireland than any other character ever has Done.

Elsewhere, Dolly and Eileen’s home lives hum with a strain of kitchen-sink vitality missing from the rest of the film, and it’s hard to overstate how sadly counterintuitive it is that the women of “The Miracle Club” are more believable as human beings when they are oppressed by their husbands at home.

Once the “action” shifts to “France,” it’s all about delaying the inevitable moment of Jesus’ arrival that makes this story worth telling – a moment that intentionally takes place in a simple brick room. hotel, and not in the ultra-commodified religious church site where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared some 100 years earlier. Everything up until then is basically just glorified vamp, as “The Miracle Club” refuses to make meaningful choices about its characters’ respective beliefs.

Striking as it is when the women finally open up to each other and find new strength in their collective suffering, those endgame revelations – and the still urgent politics that force them to remain private for so long – is denied their full dramatic power. because the rest of the film rests on a thin base of shtick. While it is touching and true when the accompanying female priest says that “one does not come to Lourdes for a miracle, one comes for the strength to go on when there is NO miracle,” that line can’t help but sound as hollow as a Hallmark card near the end of a movie that hasn’t told us anything about what its characters actually believe.

Sure, it’s quite amusing to see a talented comedian like Bates splashing frantically in the holy baths, her character more agitated by the waters of Lourdes than the unsinkable Molly Brown was by the freezing gloom of the Atlantic, but the scale of the Eileen’s bitterness remains unexplored in a threadbare 84-minute comedy that has to save time for the scene in which Dolly’s husband replaces their baby’s diaper with a blanket. At least Dolly’s young son provides the most poignantly emotional angle to the plot, if only because we can watch it unfold before our eyes.

Most of the older men in “The Miracle Club” are so clumsy that I kept waiting for the priest to get full Mr. Bean, and it’s a small grace that he remains decent (and relatively complex for that matter) despite being a living symbol of the institution that made the rest of the film’s characters feel like broken women. But it is only by opening up to each other that Lily and her friends are able to extract a certain overdue absolution from themselves, because the True the miracle would always be the friends they made along the way. Perhaps they can still be saved in all the ways a person can be saved – there is no such hope for the film around them.

Grade: c

Sony Pictures Classics will release “The Miracle Club” in theaters on Friday, July 14.

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