For One More Day



9-11 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9

Mitch Albom, as confident as ever in the existence of ghosts and afterlife, has a new holiday sermon.

In ABC's "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day," Albom, who adapted the script from his novel, assures us that no matter how drunk, irresponsible and inappropriate we get, our mothers still love us. Even if they are dead. And, more important, we are capable, with their ghostly guidance, of redeeming ourselves almost instantly, just as Ebenezer Scrooge did in "A Christmas Carol."

If this seems a little hokey and contrived for the sake of pushing an uplifting message and reaching a happy ending, there you have it. If you think you'll be bored watching it, that's another story. For all of Albom's faults (or blessings, depending on your perspective) as a purveyor of simplistic morality, the man knows how to tell a story. In this case, the structure of the story turns out to be more impressive and compelling than the story itself.

Michael Imperioli stars as the alcoholic and depressed Chick Benetto, who learns after the fact that he wasn't invited to his daughter's wedding for fear that he would create yet another scene. Angry and despondent, he buys a six-pack and drives off into the rainy night, resulting in the inevitable car crash.

In the first of a long list of miracles, he survives with only minor cuts and bruises. He puts a pistol to his head, but as he is about to fire, he spots his mother (Ellen Burstyn), who died nine years earlier.

Mom spends the day with him, cleaning his wounds, offering him counsel and encouragement and taking him on visits to older women friends on the cusp of death. Of course, Chick has trouble believing he's hanging out with a ghost. "You make too much of things," his mother reassures him. Thus ends his incredulity.

Every minute or so, the story flashes back to Chick's youth, and particularly his unhappy relationship with his father (Scott Cohen), who pushes him to become a baseball player. Between flashbacks, he discovers that the father he idolized was in reality a bullheaded egomaniac and worse. And boy, oh boy, did he ever misjudge Mom.

The film is helped by the solid work of Burstyn and particularly Imperioli, who makes Chick a far more sympathetic figure than you would expect. Kudos also to director Lloyd Kramer for imposing order and symmetry on a story that is constantly in motion between past and present.

"For One More Day" is well-timed to appeal to viewers overwhelmed by holiday preparations, weary of life's complexities and hungry for the video equivalent of comfort food.

Harpo Films
Executive producers: Kate Forte, Oprah Winfrey
Supervising producer: M. Blair Breard
Director: Lloyd Kramer
Teleplay/based on the novel by: Mitch Albom
Director of photography: Tami Reiker
Production designer: Clark Hunter
Editor: Igor Kovalik
Music: Lennie Niehaus
Set designer: Traci Kirschbaum
Casting: Sheila Jaffe
Chick Benetto: Michael Imperioli
Posey Benetto: Ellen Burstyn
Len Benetto: Scott Cohen
Young Posey: Samantha Mathis
Young Chick: Vadim Imperioli
Rose: Alice Drummond
Maria: Emily Wickersham
Catherine Benetto: Cara Seymour
Young Maria: Lexie Drago
Miss Thelma: Joyce Hogi
Older Len: Frank Pellegrino