Sunday, July 16, 2006


Let Us Now Praise: Maggie Gyllenhaal in ‘Sherrybaby’

The 2006 Karlovy Vary Film Festival has recently wrapped in the Czech spa town and writer/director Laurie Collyer won the Best Film Prize for her blue-collar melodrama “Sherrybaby.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal won a Best Actress Award for her starring role in the film; cementing an opinion I’ve had about her for some time.
Not only the brightest female star of American independents, Gyllenhaal is queen of the industry dance, meaning a constant jog between smaller, independent films and larger, more mainstream studio features. Actors, whether upcoming or veteran, practice this jog but what sets Gyllenhaal apart is the way she boosts mediocre films (the sloppy L.A. ensemble drama “Happy Endings” and the period college tale “Mona Lisa Smile” come immediately to mind) no matter their size.
When the storytelling is solid, as is the case with “Sherrybaby,” Gyllenhaal dazzles with the type of everyday, off-the-street character that has become her trademark.
Gyllenhaal plays Sherry Swanson, a single mom just released from prison who wants a decent job and the chance to raise her five-year-old daughter. Drug addiction is the demon that keeps her from achieving her dreams. Character actor Danny Trejo (pictured above with Gyllenhaal) complements Gyllenhaal as a fellow twelve-stepper. Giancarlo Esposito adds edge to the story as a parole officer on Swanson’s back.
Collyer, directing her first fiction film and just her sophomore feature after the documentary Nuyorican Dream, never strays far from recognizable formula. “Sherrybaby” would have benefited from a surprise or two.
Watched for the first time at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, “Sherrybaby” may not have been my favorite festival drama. But Gyllenhaal shines through every hard-knock scene with emotional certainty. In her hands, “Sherrybaby” transforms from a likable working class woman’s picture into a movie that’s heads and shoulders above most of the summer’s art-house releases.

“Sherrybaby” made its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and continues to play festivals around the world.
IFC Films will release “Sherrybaby” in major U.S. cities on August 25.

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