Marvin's Room is a good old-fashioned "weepy": it's got lashings of terminal illness, a big, hormonal dollop of sisterly angst, a generous portion of parental strife and crisis after crisis aftercrisis to hold it all together. Don't stop reading. Although mighty kingdoms rise and fall in the time this film takes to get going, it isn't aimed solely at your great aunt and her six-monthly trip to the flicks. It deftly sidesteps the gaping, sugary pit many schmaltzy relationship/ clog-popping movies leap into with such abandon; the hollow-eyed, bed-ridden side of terminal illness (Dying Young, anyone? Us neither...) isn't Marvin's Room's style at all. Instead, Scott McPherson's assured autobiographical screenplay comes up trumps in the area that matters - interesting, realistic characters.
Of course, three-dimensional characters do not a thrill-dizzy film experience make: Marvin's Room is a bit of a plodder. But it's enlivened by some world-class thespery from Keaton and Streep. The former's sensitive Bessie - - the role got her a Best Actress Oscar nomination - - is convincingly devoid of caricature, while Streep delivers a watery-eyed, blemish-free performance that's reminiscent of her old Kramer Vs Kramer days. Robert De Niro (who plays Diane Keaton's Dr Wally) gets to do disappointingly little in his supporting role - he wears a white coat and looks concerned, and that's about it - but Leo DiCaprio again proves how good he is, and there are sharp turns from lesser-known actors like Hal Scardino and Dan Hedaya. Once you get over the fact that you're watching big-name stars, the storyline takes over - and it's a good one.
Marvin's Room is testimony to the fact that if you've got a strong script with believable characters, an impeccable cast and a director who knows how to let the story breathe and evolve, you can't go far wrong. Films like this are rare. Chances are you still won't want to see it, but trust us - - it's really not bad. In a 1950s, Technicolor, Lauren-Bacall-could-be-in-it way.