Jason Arment

Diane: Life, Death, and Growth in Rural America

(Mary Kay Place as Diane - IFC Films)

Jason Arment reviews the movie Diane, written and directed by Kent Jones and starring Mary Kay Place. (IFC Films)

 

Diane has a slow-burning fuse and heaps of talent. So much so that I feel I’d have viewed it differently had I known that Martin Scorsese was the executive producer and Kent Jones, the writer and director, is the director of the New York Film Festival. Call me crazy, but when a movie industry cool kid and living titan team up, my expectations elevate. But I’ll never know how watching this movie about rural America would have been with knowledge of who was involved, because I viewed it on a whim without so much as watching a trailer.

Diane, played by Mary Kay Place, is a 70-year-old woman living in rural Massachusetts. Her small community is threadbare and isolated, with death stealing its older members away at an alarming rate. People are enthralled with their own self-importance, and horrified when they find none of it has mattered and no one cares.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“No one cares what year it happened.”

Diane’s dialogue is on point and reveals a great deal, especially in how the past interacts with the present to shape the future.

“I forgave, but I didn’t forget,” a dying loved one says to Diane regarding a summer when she stole her boyfriend and ran off, leaving the now dying relative to tend to Diane’s young son.

“This is the gift of revolution,” the son she once abandoned says to Diane after admitting he’d taught himself to use her indiscretion to resent her, even while she’d tried to help him during relapses into heroin addiction.

 

Diane doesn’t need CGI or shocking scenes to elicit emotional response from the audience, but instead relies on the old mainstays: good writing and excellent production.

 

There is also much left unsaid, like the look on Diane’s face when she visits her now recovered son and his new wife’s church, sitting uncomfortably while everyone speaks in tongues. The film bears marks from Scorsese in several of the most poignant scenes, which are rendered in a style different from the rest. This difference in rendering serves only to heighten and highlight, never to diminish the rest of the scenes, the hallmark of a grandmaster.

Diane is a flick that seasoned moviegoers can watch with older family members, or anyone who has experienced rural life firsthand. It’s a film without the sleight of hand we’ve grown so accustomed to. Diane doesn’t need CGI or shocking scenes to elicit emotional response from the audience, but instead relies on the old mainstays: good writing and excellent production.

 

 

Jason Arment is the author of Musalaheen, a war memoir published by University of Hell Press.

 

Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

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