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Movie Review: 'Lullaby' Starring Garrett Hedlund and Amy Adams

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Lullaby

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Lullaby tells the story of a family ripped apart by tragedy as their cancer-stricken father makes the decision to end his suffering the next day. After about ten minutes of enduring this manipulative, seemingly-endless weeper you'll just wish he would go ahead and die already.

There are reasons why a film like this, with a desirable cast of Garrett Hedlund, Amy Adams, Richard Jenkins, Anne Archer, Terrence Howard, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Jennifer Hudson, sits on the shelf and gets unceremoniously dumped when nobody will ever see it. Lullaby is the kind of movie that practically begs for your tears, and it won't stop piling on the heartache until you give them up. Cliches, desperation, and artificially inflated subplots aren't enough to win anybody ever and chances are your eyes will remain dry as a bone.

Hedlund is one of the most boring leading men around but he's especially dull as entitled, obnoxious wannabe musician Jonathan, the kind of guy who lights up a cigarette on a plane then hits on the stewardess to get out of it. He also lights up in a hospital because...well, because he's handsome or something. Basically you want to kick him in the teeth right from the start, which makes it hard to sympathize when he comes to learn his long-suffering father Robert (Richard Jenkins) has decided twelve years is long enough to be battling cancer. He's decided to let the hospital pull the life support plug in the morning because the pain is too great. Jonathan's response? "I can't handle this". Yeah, way to show compassion, dude.

The rest of the family are either just as selfish or have no personality at all. The mother (Anne Archer) fits in the latter category. She cries a lot and is very Jewish. That's all we know about her and honestly it's probably best they didn't spend more time on her. Jonathan's sister is a lawyer who decides to file an injunction preventing her father from ending his life. Her big moment comes when she presents a legal argument on why it's a bad idea for her father to die. It's as ridiculous as it sounds.

Written and directed by newcomer Andrew Levitas, the film never really seems to have much point beyond "everybody just be sad and mope a lot". There are long stretches where Levitas seems to be pulling ideas out of a hat in an effort to pad out the length. So we get a weird stretch that focuses really heavily on the family's Jewish faith, although it doesn't really inform their character relationships in any tangible way. Jonathan starts hanging out with a spirited terminal cancer patient, played by the excellent Jessica Barden, who basically teaches him that sh*t could be a lot worse so stop being a downer. And then there's Amy Adams as Jonathan's ex-girlfriend. Why Adams is in this movie is a mystery but her character is so thinly drawn that she only seems to exist on street corners. How many times can they run into one another just milling about on the street? And why should we care about them, anyway? His flirtations are especially troublesome considering what he's in town for. Hey guy, remember your dying Dad back at the hospital? This isn't the time for a hook-up. Attempts to lighten the mood are largely ill-timed and kill the few truly heartfelt moments which usually involve Jenkins' heartbreaking performance. If there's a reason to see Lullaby it's him.

Levitas smothers a deeply personal and compelling tale of life and death in Hollywood cliche, and unfortunately Lullaby never recovers.

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