Michael Maren’s “A Short History of Decay,” which releases to DVD on June 10, deals with the struggles that a lot of people will someday have to deal with, and that is the deteriorating health of loved ones. In this case, it’s Alzheimer’s for the mother, and a stroke for the father. How many times have we seen this particular film?
Nathan (Bryan Greenberg) is a writer living in New York with his girlfriend, whom also happens to be a writer. The difference is she’s about to release her debut novel, and he’s still working on his. Actually, he set it aside, so he could work on a play.
But the viewer never sees him working on it, or even really discussing the plot of said play. He’s too busy being a hypochondriac in regards to his health and well-being; writing seems to come secondary, if at all, in his mind. Thirdly seems to be the fact that he has a girlfriend named Erika (Emmanuelle Chriqui), with whom he lives. But she claims they don’t really spend much time together, since he is so constantly “busy.” After spending 10 minutes with him in the opening scene, one can’t blame her for wanting to walk out the door.
She admits that she is seeing someone else – someone who is a literary agent. Of course, this sets him off, and he tries to save their relationship. But it doesn’t work, and he just panics and whines. How can one feel sorry for a guy who is so whiney over every single thing?
Then his dad (Harris Yulin) suffers a stroke, and he has to go down to Florida to spend time with the family, since he is the unemployed one, and his older brother is the one with the job and the family. But when he gets there, he whines and complains some more. The car is making a weird sound, but his mother (Linda Lavin) won’t let him try to figure out what’s wrong with it, since it’ll upset his father. He argues with his mother, tries to make sure everything is OK with his father, and tries to fix things with Erika while he’s several states away.
But then he meets two women who catch his eye. One is Alex (Rebecca Dayan), who is drop dead gorgeous. The other is a pedicurist named Shelly (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who comes across as very charming and sweet. But he can’t seem to get over Erika and juggle his family’s problems all at once.
“A Short History of Decay” is built on the fact that these people are suffering from distance, whether it’s being far away or being so close physically but not paying much attention to what’s around you. Lack of communication from his parents throws Nathan into another whiney tangent about how he should be informed about certain things. Then the film tries to show us that family is everything, even through the really tough times. But the viewer can’t really find the connection to the emotional feeling the film is trying to display, when there are so many unnecessary subplots that get in the way.
Lavin and Yulin have their moments, but even they can’t overcome such a sappy, underdeveloped, cliche-ridden dramedy. As for the other actors, they give it their best, but they are stuck with playing extremely unlikable people in a film that has trouble rising to the level of mediocre.