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Laurie Collyer

Directed by: Laurie Collyer
(IFC Films)
Partway through SherryBaby, Sherry Swanson stands up at a family dinner and starts belting out “Eternal Flame,” by the Bangles. Her singing’s only moderately good, everyone’s eating and nobody asked her to sing. The moment is awkward, inappropriate and a little pathetic— but also endearing. So is Sherry. The character’s played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who does a great job of making a self-involved, frustrating character sympathetic. Sherry is a rehabilitated heroin addict out on parole. She claims she wants to be a better mother to the daughter she has long neglected. But Sherry demands a second chance without bothering to earn it; she wants reconciliation on her terms, and when others don’t comply, she punches cabinets and curses. Yet there’s no joy in Sherry’s failure, and it’s easy to root for her. As far as addiction movies go, SherryBaby is relatively subtle. Near the film’s end, an inappropriate paternal caress explains why needy, promiscuous Sherry is the way she is, and the film has enough restraint to not state this explicitly. That said, the same exchange also sends Sherry directly out to score drugs. Had the subtlety extended further, SherryBaby would have been stronger, but it’s still decent—largely because of Gyllenhaal’s performance.
—Lindsay McCarney

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