“The truth is hard. Sometimes it looks so wrong, y’ know. The color’s off, the style’s wrong, but I guess…I guess it’s where the good ones live.” That quote pretty much sums the movie’s entire premise because the parents, Jojo and Ben are desperately holding onto their daughter Diana’s memory and prefer to hold onto an illusion of their happy life rather than ever seeing the truth which is right there in their faces. Why do they do that? Maybe it’s because they hope to have some happiness after their daughter’s deaths and can’t face the stark truth before them. Joe is the soon to be son in law who lives with his in-laws and constantly has dreams with his ex haunting him, telling him to “Just say it”. What “It” is, the parents Jojo and Ben know, though they prefer to turn their heads.
After their daughter Diana is killed, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and Jojo Floss (Susan Sarandon) begin bonding with her fiancé Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is falling for the waitress Bertie (Ellen Pompeo), whom he shares a similar bond with. But soon Ben and Jojo will realize something about themselves when Joe reveals a secret he’s been hiding since Diana’s death. Joe is living a lie and is performing for the couple throughout the film. He sometimes serves as a surrogate son to them, including Ben who, rather than mourning, runs to the phone every time it rings to hear yet another condolence speech from a not so close friend, or building his commercial realty empire with Joe, whom he just partnered with. Joe doesn’t want to be partners, heck, he doesn’t even know what Commercial realty is, yet continues to accompany Ben on his business endeavors.
He even fights with him by yelling around him rather than yelling at him, like he did with his daughter. Jojo is the hard, tough-gritted and blunt wife who knows the truth as well yet keeps it inside. It’s only until the middle of the story when Jojo confronts Joe and begins breaking down emotionally and mentally. The parents rely on Joe and in some part, he relies on them. At one point they’re all standing idly in a hallway and Jojo remarks: “What is this, it’s like we’re waiting for something to happen.” What they’re waiting for is the truth which probably won’t come. Brad Siberling paints a somber and serene picture of how he was able to mourn his girlfriend Rebecca’s death, and it’s a damn good one. I’ve always believed the best way to mourn someone is to find a facet for your sadness into different forms.
Siberling gives a somber and serene pace towards the storytelling of the movie, slowly taking the time to gather our thoughts about the characters, and we inevitably feel saddened because the film is realistic and makes no attempt at glamorizing or minimizing the mixed emotions and desperation we feel when a loved one is killed. Their entire reality is exposed for what it truly is, and it’s a harsh one; during the film, we get the sense that the Flosses friends were never really friends to begin with. At one point, Diana’s friends begin searching through her wardrobe like ravaging jackals, and their friends begin giving these idiotic and inane remarks towards the characters during the funeral in the opener of the film. While Jojo and Joe mock them hours later, Ben replies “Put yourself in their shoes”, which stands true because no one ever knows what to say when someone dies.
This film stands true to the aspect of mixed emotions when someone we love dies. We don’t know how to act, we don’t know what to say because everything sounds trite and predictable, and a big chunk of our lives have been taken away, so it’s difficult to start from where you left off. The film is driven by an incredible cast including Dustin Hoffman who manages to become his character who is so desperate and so eager to hold onto to an illusion that he can’t face it. Hoffman is truly excellent in this film and lets the viewers into his psyche. Susan Sarandon is truly magnetic as the blunt and straight forward Jojo who rarely ever turns her head at the events around her. We even feel sad for her when she, who is a writer, is desperate for inspiration but receives none since Diana’s death. With a great script, and top notch performances by Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, and Jake Gyllenhaal, this is probably one of the most realistic, poignant, and intimate portraits into the lives of characters in mourning. Thanks for letting us in, Mr. Siberling.