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Imagine Gypsy’s Mama Rose transplanted to a depressed New England town decades later and you have the flavor of Coming Up Roses, Lisa Albright’s debut feature starring Bernadette Peters, who actually played the role in a Broadway revival. Playing a failed musical theater actress struggling to raise her younger daughter under dire financial circumstances, the veteran actress provides a touch of blowsy glamour to this determinedly gritty indie.
Set in 1985 in a crime-ridden New Hampshire town, the film depicts the plight of the unemployed Diane (Peters), who clings to her show business past even as she struggles to evade the clutches of a collection agent, Charles (Peter Friedman) who threatens her with eviction.
While an older daughter (Shannon Esper) quickly escapes into marriage, 15-year-old Alice (Rachel Brosnahan) finds herself having to cope with her bi-polar mother, who alternates between joyfully singing old show tunes and lapsing into suicidal depression. Alice soon finds a friend in streetwise classmate Cat (Reyna de Courcy), who enlists her in petty crimes and eventually reveals a romantic interest.
Things seem to be looking up when Charles begins a relationship with Diane. But his seeming beneficence is ultimately revealed to have darker ramifications in a melodramatic plot twist.
Like so many autobiographically inspired stories, the film ironically manages to be wholly unconvincing. Peters’ character generally registers as a grotesque caricature despite the actress’ admirably restrained performance, and the turgid family dynamics comprising the central storyline have the stale feel of countless indie films dealing with similar themes. Despite the strong performances—Brosnahan is particularly strong as the troubled teen, and Friedman brings compelling shadings to the seemingly kindhearted Charles—Coming Up Roses winds up pushing up daisies.
Production: Bullet Pictures.
Cast: Bernadette Peters, Shannon Esper, Rachel Brosnahan, Peter Friedman, Reyna de Courcy.
Director: Lisa Albright.
Screenwriters: Lisa Albright, Christina Lazaridi.
Producers: Adam Folk, Jonathan Mason.
Director of photography: Ryan Samul.
Editor: Ray Hubley.
Production designer: Daniel R. Kersting.
Costume designer: Michael Anzalone.
Composer: Dominic Matar.
Not rated, 88 min.
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