'3 Days With Dad': Film Review

3 Days with Dad Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Unified Pictures
Wildly uneven, but more good moments than bad.

An ensemble of veteran performers appears in actor Larry Clarke's dramedy about a family dealing with the death of its patriarch.

Veteran character actor Larry Clarke (you'll know him when you see him) bites off a little more than he can chew with his directorial debut, 3 Days With Dad. The film, for which Clarke wrote the screenplay and also stars, attempts to milk both pathos and black comedy from its time-shifting storyline involving a family dealing with the death of its patriarch. The high-wire tonal balancing act proves a little wobbly at times, resulting in a film that feels less than the sum of its parts.

But some of those parts work very well, providing moments of uncomfortable hilarity and genuine poignancy. Add to that a terrific ensemble of scene-stealing players (Clarke has clearly made a lot of friends during his two decades-plus career), and the pic proves a more than respectable effort that will resonate with anyone who's ever had to deal with a similar situation, and that's most people.

Clarke plays Eddie, who has returned to his Maryland hometown to deal with the impending death of his father Bob (Brian Dennehy). A hotel doorman whose personal and professional lives have proved major disappointments, sad-sack Eddie is reunited with his siblings Andy (Tom Arnold, more restrained than usual), Zak (Eric Edelstein) and Diane (Mo Gaffney), as well as their stepmother Dawn (Lesley Ann Warren, mining her character's eccentricities for comic gold).

The chronologically jumbled narrative depicts Bob's final days in a hospital, his concerned family members hovering over him and faced with such momentous decisions as when to turn off his life support, and the subsequent funeral and its aftermath, the latter filled with darkly comic complications. Even as he's dealing with these traumatic events, Eddie finds himself having an awkward sexual liaison in a car with a former high school friend (a very funny Amy Landecker). He also has a reunion with an old flame (Julie Ann Emery) that turns out to have life-changing ramifications.

There's an awful lot going on in the film, perhaps too much, although to be fair, it effectively replicates the disorientation and feelings of being overwhelmed that inevitably accompany dealing with the death of a loved one. There are too many characters cluttering up the proceedings, and the writer-director is not always adept at shifting between the story's comic and dramatic elements.

Interestingly, the movie's chief assets are its moments depicting the complex emotional dynamics among family members who love but don't always understand each other. It's at these times that 3 Days With Dad feels most genuine, especially concerning the wrenching aspects of end-of-life medical treatment. An example is the touching scene in which a soft-spoken doctor (David Koechner, in an uncharacteristic role) gently guides the siblings through the process of letting their father die peacefully, while a seemingly uncomprehending Dawn refuses to accept what is actually happening.

Equally effective is some of the film's more character-driven humor. Particularly enjoyable are Eddie's interactions with an old friend (Mike O'Malley) who's become a quadriplegic and doesn't shy away from using his condition for laughs and shock value. But when the film aims for guffaws, it simply becomes too broad. The scenes involving the father's cremation at the "Peaceful Paws" pet-oriented crematorium strain credulity, despite J.K. Simmons' hilarious cameo as a boorish assistant funeral director.

Uneven to say the least, 3 Days With Dad has moments that will make you cringe. But it also has ones that will make you laugh and may even make you cry, and these days that's no small achievement.

Production company: Badlands Features
Distributor: Unified Pictures
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Tom Arnold, Larry Clarke, Mo Gaffney, Julie Ann Emery, Lesley Ann Warren, Brian Dennehy, Jon Gries, Eric Edelstein
Director-screenwriter: Larry Clarke
Producers: Brad Brizendine, Kirk Roos
Executive producers: Rick Dukhovny, Matt Roazen
Director of photography: Christopher Gallo
Production designer: Rebekah Bell
Editor: David Hopper
Composer: John Ballinger
Costume designer: Brianna Quick
Casting: Helen Geier, Kendra Shay Clark

94 minutes