‘Diane’ is a quiet pleasure

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Documentarian Kent Jones’ ‘Diane’ is a rare look at rural, working-class people – without a hint of condescension.

Courtesy of IFC Films
Mary Kay Place appears as the titular character in Kent Jones’ ‘Diane.’

Mary Kay Place has quietly and resolutely been doing sterling work in the movies and television since her “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” days, but “Diane,” in which she plays a widow in rural Massachusetts, is perhaps the first time she has had a full-scale role that is worthy of her. She plays a woman whose life is bound up in sacrificial service to others. Diane is a bit like a New England version of a character in a Chekhov or Sholom Aleichem story – a holy sufferer.

She endures much sorrow, including a drug-addicted son (Jake Lacy) and the slow fade of her dying cousin (Deidre O’Connell), but she is sustained throughout by what can perhaps be best described as a dogged state of grace.

The film was written and directed by Kent Jones, a noted documentarian (“Hitchcock/Truffaut”), film critic and director of the New York Film Festival, making his dramatic film debut. He has a fine way with his cast, which also includes such stalwarts as Estelle Parsons, Joyce Van Patten, Phyllis Somerville, and, best of all, Andrea Martin (who is not in the film enough). Despite his extensive cinema literacy, I never felt l was watching a pastiche of other filmmakers’ movies.

There are some deficiencies. The narrative is set up so that the lead characters expire one by one, which can make for some pretty dreary longeurs, and the scenes with the son don’t share the lived-in verity of Diane’s scenes with her friends and family. But it’s a rarity, and a real pleasure, to find a movie that presents without condescension rural working-class people, especially women. Grade: A- (This film has not been rated.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.