The positives: I love the concept of the film! The concept was what drew me in to see this movie when I saw its previews. Essentially, the matriarch of a jewish family reveals her most well kept secret-- she worked a a nurse in Auschwitz, helping a doctor perform control/experiments on female jewish prisoners. She further reveals that she isn't Jewish at all, and still considers herself to be a member of the Third Reich. A brilliant concept which features an unlikely villain.. i love it !
a few constructives: * In large, the dialogue is random and disconnected to the other characters' dialogues, which is very distracting. It really seemed to me like the writer wrote in a "stream of consciousness" method but didn't go back to edit, re-edit, and re-edit again as is typical to the writing process. For example, Melody came into her living and grabbed a handful of candies. She had just awakened from a sedative induced nap. She was distressed that Claire was in her house and was very verbal in expressing it. Her husband was in the same room, and he didn't acknowledge her whatsoever but carried on his own conversation about making money from Claire by selling her story to various publications. Meanwhile, Olivia is overlooking his shoulder as he draws a Nazi based cartoon. She carries on a conversation with Claire that jumps from taking her medicines, discussing the hidden meaning of german names in the cartoon, then to talking about herself.
These storylines need to be polished and linked to one another in a way that shows a more natural dialogue, instead of a series of disconnected monologues.
*Emotional reactions don't match the circumstances. There were a lot of instances where an actor would suddenly burst into an an emotional explosion that just seemed... odd. For example, after learning that his great grandmother reveals her participation with the experiments on Jews, he immediately goes from loving his great grandmother to instantaneously despising her and in a split second, makes the decision that he is going to turn her in to be tried for war crimes. It is unrealistic to believe that he could change his mind about her so quickly. The opportunity for the actor here could have included the typical Kübler Ross Model of Grief, which would have displayed the stages of his love for her to his condemnation of her--denial that she was telling the truth (maybe choosing to believe that she is senile or confused-- a point Josh touched on, but only *just*) ..Anger (he expressed a lot of this, although his anger was unbalanced.. he seemed amazingly angry at the very thought of her participation without ever really asking precisely what she did and didn't do .. what she knew and didn't know) : bargaining (trying to reconcile the two Oma's.. the one he loves vs. the image of Nazi Killer Nurse. Maybe he could forgive it? Maybe she didn't know fully what she did because she was only 14 years old and was told a lie from the death camp doctors... something to give him an emotional reason to forgive her ).. depression (again, touched on when he revealed that he was "somber" to his wife during a phone call the next day).. acceptance ( ok , my Oma was / is a Nazi. She is going to kill herself in 1 week through medically assisted suicide. It would likely take Nazi prosecutors at least 1 week at best to respond to him if he turned her in, maybe we just let her kill herself, die with the secret and we continue with our lives).
*there were many more things that I could talk in depth about, but for the sake of brevity: 1. Olivia felt betrayed beyond what a great granddaughter-in-law, who not only is relatively new to this family's dynamic, but is also new to Judaism. She said things that led me to believe that she knew Claire all of her life, and was horrified that "all those stories about kissing Moysha" were lies .. as if she were around when Moysha were alive. She displays the emotional baggage that a descendent of concentration camp victim does, but in actuality, she was a Catholic only 18 months prior... so it comes off disingenuous.
2. Olivia brings Claire to her classroom one day. After her students ask her who Claire is and why she is there, she reveals Claire's secret to the students. It's a weird scene that I just can't see happening in real life. If Olivia is so horrified, why did she bring Claire to school with her in the first place? She goes from being kind, smiling at Claire's stories about her own mother, making sure her robe is closed and she's taking her meds, etc. , to "I'm going to smear you and I hate you for what you did to my? people... " . It's the same with Melody.. if Melody was so distraught over Claire being in her house, why was she in her house in the first place? It's not realistic. I get that her husband wanted to milk her story for money, but he could have/should have put her up in a hotel to keep the family as calm as possible, and still have access to Claire. Nobody would invite her in as a guest if they hated her so much.
3. The emotional lashes at Claire from these family members would have made more sense had Claire revealed that she participated in the killing of someone specifically in this family's tree. Again, I understand the "collective pain* that Jewish people absorb from the Holocaust, but the pain usually displays in varying degrees that typically intensifies when a direct relative was murdered/tortured/etc.
4. The graveyard scene where Melody is losing her mind over childhood jabs her parents gave her was just .. odd. Again, the reaction was over done and for me, only gave me evidence that Melody is just plain crazy and would flip out if someone took her parking spot with the same intensity that she learned her grandmother in law is a Nazi. It took from the story and the opportunity for expressing Melody's true character was obscured by it.
5. In the beginning, while Claire revealed her secrets to Josh and Olivia, she told story in at least 4 different locations on the beach. If someone delivers such a gut punch story, you wouldn't be moving around the beach as they did. You would be transfixed in horror, unwilling to move until you heard all that you needed/wanted to hear. There would only be two other places you would go .. inside to talk more about the story, because it's getting hot out or Josh and Olivia going away from Claire because they couldn't stand her anymore, had to process the story , etc. You seriously wouldn't find 4 other scenic locations on the beach, picking up your beach towel, bottled waters and wines, etc , and congenially walking from spot to spot making the small talk in between each location.
The take away:
All in all, an amazing story concept that lost its potential in the telling. It would have been better served had the screenplay been edited, scrutinized for emotional validity, and reality checked all throughout. Given what she had to work with, Rebecca Schull did an amazing job in bringing her character to life. Had the other actors' had the same chance with a polished script for their own characters, this could have been an amazing movie. To make a movie is no small feat and I commend Jeff Lipsky for the obvious energy and efforts he put into his movie. He was at the very movie I went to to do a Q&A with the audience afterwards, and I could feel how very involved and attached he was to the story and the lives of his characters. He's clearly very creative and like all of us, would be made better by surrounding himself with people that could help him get the most from his creations.