28 May 2006 | gradyharp
Recollections of Oz
Charles McDougall's resume includes directing episodes on 'Sex and the City', 'Desperate Housewives', Queer as Folk', 'Big Love', 'The Office', etc. so he comes with all the credentials to make the TV film version of Meg Wolitzer's novel SURRENDER, DOROTHY a success. And for the most part he manages to keep this potentially sappy story about sudden death of a loved one and than manner in which the people in her life react afloat.
Sara (Alexa Davalos) a beautiful unmarried young woman is accompanying her best friends - gay playwright Adam (Tom Everett Scott), Adam's current squeeze Shawn (Chris Pine), and married couple Maddy (Lauren German) and Peter (Josh Hopkins) with their infant son - to a house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. The group seems jolly until a trip to the local ice creamery by Adam and Sara) results in an auto accident which kills Sara. Meanwhile Sara's mother Natalie Swedlow (Diane Keaton) who has an active social life but intrusively calls here daughter constantly with the mutual greeting 'Surrender, Dorothy', is playing it up elsewhere: when she receives the phone call that Sara is dead she immediately comes to the Hamptons where her overbearing personality and grief create friction among Sara's friends. Slowly but surely Natalie uncovers secrets about each of them, thriving on talking about Sara as though doing so would bring her to life. Natalie's thirst for truth at any cost results in major changes among the group and it is only through the binding love of the departed Sara that they all eventually come together.
Diane Keaton is at her best in these roles that walk the thread between drama and comedy and her presence holds the story together. The screenplay has its moments for good lines, but it also has a lot of filler that becomes a bit heavy and morose making the actors obviously uncomfortable with the lines they are given. Yes, this story has been told many times - the impact of sudden death on the lives of those whose privacy is altered by disclosures - but the film moves along with a cast pace and has enough genuine entertainment to make it worth watching. Grady Harp