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Sometimes all a movie needs is a good character to follow around, never even needing a proper story. It’s a rare thing sure, but when the stars align and an actor really ‘gets’ the part and slips into an ethereal realm of make believe, it’s something to behold. With Strange Weather, a film that as a whole can’t quite find its footing, there is one such performance, and no matter the flaws of her story, the character is one to watch.
As an 88-day heat wave rages on in Georgia, Darcy Baylor (Holly Hunter) struggles like many, driving to work at the university where she works as an administrative assistant in a skimpy top, tousled hair, and once ivory-colored straw hat before putting on her blouse. She lives alone in a run down house with her dog and spends time with her best friend and neighbor Byrd (Carrie Coon), not to mention her on and off again lover Clayton (Kim Coates), who runs the local bar. She is still struggling with the loss of her son Walker, who took his own life seven years before, when she runs into a former friend of his in town for a short time who seems to have done something deceitful against her son. Convinced of this, she and Byrd take a trip to Florida to set things right in a journey through her past that sees her packing a gun.
Written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, Strange Weather is a weirdly comfortable character study where Hunter so fully embodies Darcy Baylor, it’s hard to see past the story itself. Hunter has long had this ingratiating charm about her, even in her light-hearted work, that so effortlessly wooes the viewer into her embrace, and here, like always, it is the subtle idiosyncrasies of what she does that makes her so warmly engaging. While everything about her is carefully contrived to be exactly that, from her very particular wardrobe to the very words she says, Hunter lets it all soak into her like a midday heat. You can’t help but be taken by what is some of Hunter’s greatest work.
The story isn’t quite as sustainable though as it nestles into the trappings of its own metaphors, from the road trip itself to the oft-mentioned drought, these parallels to Darcy’s life are not left untapped, though never so much that it soils the experience. Indeed Diekmann’s script is fluid and while sometimes poetic, is often heartbreaking, even in little bits. Nonetheless, it is how Hunter carries it all that makes it soothe so deeply, how she cradles herself into the much larger Clayton’s chest, or the way she slips behind the glass door of a frozen food bin to steal some chill, these are the soft corners of Darcy that ultimately move you most.
While some moments remind us a little too much of the path Darcy is on, from some manipulative visuals and musical choices, Strange Weather is still a challenging story that is held together by it performances.
Movie description: Strange Weather is a 2017 drama about a mother, who, in an effort to deal with the grief over the death of her son, travels the back roads of the deep south to settle a score.
Director(s): Katherine Dieckmann
Actor(s): Holly Hunter, Carrie Coon, Ransom Ashley