“Miss You Already” Review (***)

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Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette star in “Miss You Already.”

At first glance, or, more accurately, first trailer, “Miss You Already” had me hooked. I was so eager to watch this weepie, mumblecore-esque kind of movie. I wanted to watch a film that orbited solely around the friendship between two women, to watch a film where hurt and cancer and love and death weren’t sensationalized. If you were looking for something similar to what I described above, I’m sorry to say, I don’t think that “Miss You Already” is your movie. Though it’s not what I expected, nor what I wanted, it’s hard not to admire director Catherine Hardwicke’s (“Twilight,” “Plush”) lack of fear. She’s entirely unafraid of the uncertainty, sentimentality, and emotional weight of a movie as heavy as the Titanic.

Milly (Toni Collette) is a high-power PR executive with a rock star husband, two adorable, over-acting children, and a loud, self-aggrandizing sense of vanity who is diagnosed with breast cancer at an unforgivingly early age. She’s forced to not only deal with the diagnosis, which seems to be the least of it, but also with the aftermath of it, with the condescending platitudes about life and death, with sympathetic smiles and watered down eyes. Jess (Drew Barrymore), her BFF, does her best to right every domino as it falls. Of course, with a beast as relentless and narrow-minded as cancer, her efforts are fruitless. Tragically, Milly loses herself to the consequence of cancer, not only the disease itself, but the portrayed isolation of it. She has a difficult time relating to her friends and family (husband played by Dominic Cooper and mother played by Jacqueline Bisset), constantly proclaiming, in a most exhausting and narcissistic fashion, that every look and smile is saturated in sympathy.

The film begins with a ten-minute montage: a testimonial of the friendship between Milly and Jess. Milly was always the louder, more rambunctious of the two, and Jess was eager and willing to follow in her footsteps. Over all of this archival footage, there’s a very tired voice over. This, to me, was so hokey and cheap and not at all aligning with the tenor of the rest of the film. “Miss You Already” is a film that takes itself seriously, but sometimes the fragility and sentimentality that could make this film great are undermined in favor of overdone jokes and unconvincing comedy. “Miss You Already” has an extreme only-seen-in-films sensationalism about it, including but not limited to a 200+ mile taxi out to the Moors (an homage to both their favorite novel Wuthering Heights and their favorite penis joke) that culminates in a dance/sing-along to “Losing My Religion.”

“Miss You Already” was too quick to brush over the tenderness and simultaneous heartbreak of a relationship that’s existed for more than twenty years. Nothing is simple and no arguments are self-contained. Everything is full of hyperbole and superlative and passion and texture. When it hurts, it’s cutting and raw, and when it’s good, the sun shines so bright you can practically taste the honey-yellow on your tongue. And I wanted more of that here; I wanted to see the truth to someone you love having cancer. “Miss You Already” was full of procedure and consequence and staging, but there was very little reveling in the moment. There were some scenes, so tender, however, that the feeling of it took up every single inch of the frame. And when that happened, it was gorgeous.

I love the idea of this movie. I love the intimacy of the friendship, the quiet humor and inside jokes, but I wanted more of it. I wanted more sincerity. I wanted more laughter. I wanted to cry a bit more. I wanted more of the reactions and the emotions, and I wanted the humor to feel just instead of indulgent. I wanted to see more restraint from Hardwicke, I wanted more feelings. I just wanted… more.

3 out of 5 stars.

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