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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 22 November 2000
You walk into the cinema on a rainy Monday night to see a movie about which you know nothing. It's been a hard day at work and that monday feeling is getting worse. When you leave the cinema you're uplifted and human, having been moved into believing people aren't that bad after all. The rest of the week doesn't look so bad now, does it? Marvin's Room stars Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro and Leonardo Di Caprio. From such strarry names you might expect a movie of grand proportions. In fact, this is as close to Arthouse as Hollywood is ever likely to get. As perfect on small screen in your living room as on the big screen this movie gives us as much insight into the actors as it does the characters. Streep and Keaton play sisters who haven't spoken for twenty years. They come into contact again when illness strikes at the heart of the family forcing everyone to face responsibilities long neglected. Di Caprio gives a rare showing of great sublety and a clue into his future abilities, whereas Niro lets rip a stonking comic streak. This movie could have easily slid into unbearable sentimentality. Rather, we are touched and moved by characters who remain in our thoughts long after the closing credits.
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Taken from a play by Scott McPherson, "Marvin's Room" at first seems like it might be a dreary tear jerker of a drama. But wait, there is a dream cast involved and somewhat maudlin scenarios turn out to be sheer delights. Imagine a film with Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Robert DeNiro, Leonard DiCaprio and Hugh Cronyn and you cannot go wrong. Keaton is taking care of her long failing father Cronyn when she discovers she has leukemia. She contacts her long estranged sister (Streep) and nephew (DiCaprio) as possible donors. When the families unite in Florida, it's a flurry of funny, hard-nosed and real life dialogue. All cast members are at their best and Streep and Keaton juxtaposed as sisters is amazing. There's strong warmth and reality in this film and despite the occasional tear, the ultimate feeling is happiness. This movie is a keeper.
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Kindly Bessie (Diane Keaton) has devoted her life to caring for her ailing father with no help from her estranged sister, Lee (Meryl Streep), the black sheep of the family. But now, Bessie is gravely ill and needs Lee's help.

I usually don't care for Diane Keaton's acting, but I did like her in this role. She plays an utterly selfless woman who could easily have been cloying, but was instead, quite sympathetic and noble. Streep does her usual expert job, playing a woman who won't win any Mother of the Year awards. And DiCaprio, looking very young a year before Titanic, steals all his scenes as a dangerous teen who hates his mother so much he burns down the house.

This is a poignant look at illness and dying through the eyes of three very different characters. I was sorry it ended so abruptly without resolving the story, but that makes it feel even more real. This is a movie I'll want to watch again when I'm feeling blue; it will help me keep things in perspective and remind me what's really important.
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on 22 January 2016
This strongly-cast movie version of the late Scott McPherson's play is notable for a fine early performance by the young Leonardo DiCaprio, just shortly after his strong performance in "This Boy's Life" in the mid-1990's. To put it that way is perhaps a little unfair to the other actors -- Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, and Gwen Verdon, who work hard and honorably with material that is finally less interesting -- because not very compellingly written. Part of the trouble is that the conception of the character of Bessie (Diane Keaton), the selfless sister who has devoted 17 years of her life to taking care of her father, post-stroke (Hume Cronyn), and also looking out for her aunt (Gwen Verdon) who has chronic pain problems and goes around therefore in a cheerful medicated haze. McPherson wrings some humor from a dire situation that is a little cringe-making, but the point is, I suppose, to demonstrate a kind of "steel magnolia" resilience. Bessie is simply too good to be true -- even in her blow-up with her sister Lee (Streep) for deserting her in a time of need 17 years earlier she can hardly make anger credible. When Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, however, things get serious. Her sister and her sister's children drive down from Ohio to have their bone-marrow checked for a transplant match, so the the scene is set for recrimination and reconciliation. This is where Lee's son Hank (DiCaprio) complicates things -- alienated from his mother, who doesn't know how to relate to him and who is trying to become a professionally certified cosmetologist, and idealizing a father he hardly remembers, Hank burns down his mother's house, is placed in an mental institution, and it's from there that he makes the trip to Bessie's Florida home. Bessie treats him as an adult, he responds to her in a way that he doesn't to his mother, and awakens jealousy in Lee, who just can't stop herself from from being bossy and condescending to him.

All that suggests that in this movie Lee has the meatier part, and Streep suggests through gesture and expression more than through words that she feels guilty about the appalling situation that she left Bessie in all these years before. She can't bring herself to bluntly acknowledge it, but her behavior as the play goes on manifests that recognition, and Bessie, almost perfect as she is, takes the deeds for the statement and a reconciliation is effected. As Hank, DiCaprio, again through gesture and expression more than words, creates a vivid, fresh image of a troubled 17-year-old. He has an expressive mobility of feature unusual in a young actor, and he's very effective. Robert DeNiro has a cameo as Bessie's doctor -- a man who seems kindly yet uncomfortable with people. His brother Bob (Dan Hedaya) serves as his receptionist -- a comic role that could have been done without -- no disrespect to Dan Hedaya, a fine actor when he gets a decent part. Gwen Verdon as Aunt Ruth is almost as badly treated.

The movie avoids one kind of sentimental ending -- thus establishing McPherson's "realist" credentials, I suppose -- by pressing home another. Laughter and tears, we're meant to think -- isn't life just like that!
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on 27 October 2006
This is a play whose script immediately presents a challenge - it is poorly written. However, despite the best attempts of the film's director (with fainting goofy scenes!), Diane Keaton is stunning as Bessy. She maintains a wonderful sense of the character's integrity and dignity throughout and for once, steals the show from Meryl Streep. It is wonderful to see Keaton back in a more serious role that show cases her true acting talent and Streep too delivers a performance which evokes huge symapthy for her otherwise unloveable beautician character. This film has some of the biggest names in the business and that is essentially why it works - but Leanardo diCaprio's performance does let the side down with an annoyingly melancholy aura to his performance that cries out for him to grow up. Overall though this is a beautiful film which teaches us to appreciate those little things in life - truly heartwarmingly to watch!
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on 25 October 2012
Great film and fantastic acting. DiCaprio at his best,the same about Meryl Streep. Yes,it's based on a stage drama so there is not much action but there is so much going on inside the characters the I could never be bored watching this.If you appreciate this type of cinema you have probably seen this film already.But if somehow you didn't and you like to observe psychological portraits or a difficult mother-son relationship or if you are fan of the other DiCaprio's films like "Gilbert Grape" or "This boy's life" you should get "Marvin's room".No to mention having Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton in the cast!I still think DiCaprio and M.Streep are the strongest characters of this drama.
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on 16 May 2014
This is the story of two sisters, estranged for 19 years, who get together when one of them receives bad news.

Bessie is almost too good to be true, caring for her bed-ridden father, and eccentric Aunt Ruth. Almost, but not quite. Her sister Lee, by contrast, has made her own way in the world as a single mother, with a rebellious 18-year-old son and a bookworm younger son.

The production is good, the acting excellent. Meryl Streep excels herself as Lee, by no means typecast yet quite believable. There are some moments of humour that made us chuckle, and some medical moments that made us cringe. The family dynamics work well, and it was encouraging to see the potential for healing – no spoiler there; this is part of the blurb on the back.

Unfortunately the movie ends far too suddenly, leaving many threads wide open. It wasn’t a particularly encouraging ending, either, so I can’t give it four stars. On the other hand, it was better than a run-of-the-mill three.
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on 7 October 2015
Film night with the girls and we all just loved it!! Great cast, Meryl fabulous as always, a very young Leonardo and Diane Keaton are supported by a strong cast including Robert De Niro. Great story, believable script and storyline with a strong cast - what more do you need - oh yes, a box of tissues!
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on 1 July 2013
I did like the character development in this movie, because you can clearly see what the mother Lee does wrong which makes her and her son Hank argue so much, in comparison to the aunt Bessie. Hank is an interesting character, though his role isn't too realistic as he does some very dangerous things, yet nobody is worried about him harming anyone. The movie is mostly heartwarming, especially the love Bessie have for people which Lee deems doesn't deserve attention.

The problem with this movie though is that once things start picking up the pace and get interesting - the end song plays and the credit rolls! Literally out of the blue. I felt like they cut half the movie short. The things you wanted to know never gets answered and it almost seems the movie was cut short to make room for a follow up to finish telling. If it wasn't for that fact, I would have made a higher score on the overall rating.
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VINE VOICEon 2 January 2012
Whilst I liked this film, there wasn't a lot to love about it. It was perfectly acceptable to watch to while the time away on a rainy sunday afternoon, but it's not one that I would add to my permanent DVD collection.

The plot is based around two sisters (Streep and Keaton), who are estranged, but have been reunited by the fact that one sister needs a bone marrow transplant.
Keaton's character is gentle, and has devoted her life to caring for their sick father Marvin; whereas Streep's character is a single mother, who has tried to live a full life.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Meryl Streep's angst-ridden teenage son recently released from a psychiatric institute.

The movie doesn't have a strong storyline, and almost everything that happens is somewhat predictable. That said, it's not a bad film, it's weak and insipid given the strength and calibre of actors in the cast. I'd expect to see the storyline on a Hallmark film.

The ending was entirely disappointing, and I felt that there was no real sense of closure. It just ends. Pretty much like this review!!
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