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‘All We Had’ (review)

Produced by Katie Holmes, Jane Rosenthal,
Katie Mustard, Berry Welsh
Based on the book by Annie Weatherwax
Written by Josh Boone, Jill Killington
Directed by Katie Holmes
Starring Katie Holmes, Stefania LaVie Owen,
Richard Kind, Mark Consuelos, Eve Lindley,
Judy Greer, Luke Wilson

 

The IMDB.com description for All We Had is a simple sentence; “A mother struggles to make a better life for her daughter”.

Katie Holmes debut as a feature director definitely has elements that fit that description, but like most indie dramas that star a chemically dependent parent, it is the daughter who holds their dysfunctional little family together.

That’s the over-riding issue with this film.

While the cast is fairly strong and the performances seem heartfelt and authentic, the story itself is a formula that has played over and over in these types of films. Ruthie Carmichael, played by the emerging Stefania Owen is the center of this film’s orbit. Katie Holmes portrays Ruthie’s mom Rita and early on she shows a propensity for bad decision making and a willingness to do anything to get by, including put Ruthie at risk.

The characters are likeable and you feel for them. Richard Kind makes a strong showing as the owner of the diner that employs Rita as things begin to settle down. You generally see him in foppish roles that don’t require a ton of range and this film uncovers his broader abilities to a certain extent.  The real standout in the film is Eve Lindley who plays a transgender waitress in Kind’s diner. She is fierce and strong as her meaningful sub-plot unfolds.

There is talent in this cast from top to bottom and the story, while formulaic, is successful in getting you to care about the characters as an unlikely family emerges from the many incomplete lives we are introduced to.

There is one performance that stands out in its weakness. Luke Wilson plays almost every role he is cast in exactly the same. He is a generally even tempered nice guy with a too big smile and little emotional range. He is likeable, always, but there is no real depth. He is unassuming in his approach-ability but he seems to perpetually exist in two dimensions. His role in All We Had either doesn’t allow him to break the mold we have seen him in over and over again or he is just incapable of playing someone different.

The film ends rather abruptly and a little too cleanly. It could have taken a darker turn in some moments and made some braver choices in others. It felt like Holmes and screenwriters Josh Boone and Jill Killington copped out at times, not telling the story they really wanted to tell. This is a watchable movie and while Katie Holmes is fairly competent in her directorial debut because the story has a tangible beginning, middle and end, it’s clear she has a long way to go to. That said, solid acting and directing can’t save a mediocre script and that’s what All We Had is, from beginning to end. Mediocre.

2.5 out of 5 stars

 

All We Had is available on DVD, Blu-ray, Digital HD and On Demand

 

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