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Lullaby DVD Review

Lullaby (2014) movie poster Lullaby

Theatrical Release: June 13, 2014 / Running Time: 81 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Andrew Levitas

Cast: Garrett Hedlund (Jonathan Weinstein), Richard Jenkins (Robert Weinstein), Anne Archer (Rachel Weinstein), Jessica Brown Findlay (Karen Weinstein), Amy Adams (Emily), Jessica Barden (Meredith), Terrence Howard (Doctor Crier), Jennifer Hudson (Nurse Carrie), Zac Ballard (Nicholas), Frankie Shaw (Janice), Daniel Sunjata (Officer Ramirez), Danielle Kotch (Helen), Miles Kath (Young Jonathan), Maddie Corman (Beth), Anne V. (Brooke), Julian Shatkin (Jeremy), Darren Le Gallo (Ethan Weinstein), Sharon Hope (Older Black Woman), Russell Koplin (Nurse Hatcher), Tom Riis Farrell (Officer Poland), Sterling Jerins (Young Karen)

Buy Lullaby from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Garrett Hedlund is one of those would-be movie stars the world isn't ready to embrace. After holding the lead role in Tron: Legacy, a decent sequel that fell short of its studio's Avatar-meets-Dark Knight expectations, Hedlund starred in the much-anticipated Jack Kerouac adaptation On the Road
that nobody saw and liked. He commanded the screen briefly in Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers' critically acclaimed but challenging and not so well-attended latest effort. Now, here is Lullaby, a film surrounding Hedlund with four Academy Award nominees and one winner that nonetheless hits DVD later this month with little evidence of having seen the inside of theaters.

Hedlund plays Jonathan Weinstein, a 26-year-old who flies in to see his father, Robert (Richard Jenkins). Robert was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. That was twelve years ago and he's ready to throw in the towel on this long fight that's been so tough on him and Rachel (Anne Archer), his loving wife of 35 years. Robert informs Jonathan that the end is near; he intends to be taken off life support in 24 hours. Jonathan's younger sister, Yale law student Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay), disapproves of assisted suicide and has filed a pre-emptive injunction to prevent her father from ending his life this way.

In "Lullaby", a young man (Garrett Hedlund) visits his dying father (Richard Jenkins).

Meanwhile, Jonathan runs into his ex-girlfriend Emily (Amy Adams), who left him without explanation and has since gotten married. He also encounters Meredith (Jessica Barden), a 17-year-old patient with advanced bone marrow cancer who puts his problems in perspective. There's also Carrie (Jennifer Hudson), an obnoxious nurse with the world's worst bedside manner.

The filmmaking debut of writer-director Andrew Levitas, an actor who peaked in the late '90s with recurring roles on "Party of Five", "The Nanny", and "Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher", Lullaby is an uneven effort. It crams a ridiculous amount of activity into what appears to be two days. Sure, there are some flashbacks to Jonathan's adolescence, illuminating how he turned down an NYU education to pursue music (unsuccessfully) in California. But there are also: a spontaneous hospital chapel Passover Seder, a preposterous late night children's cancer ward prom, and a ludicrous opportunity for Karen to argue for continuing her father's medical treatment as if in a courtroom.

An improbably impromptu prom dance for Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) and bone cancer patient Meredith (Jessica Barden) feels miscalculated. Amy Adams plays Emily, an ex who just happens to run into Jonathan on this eventful day.

The film and its cast change tone from one scene to the next. Unsurprisingly given the subject matter, Lullaby is quite depressing. Levitas tries to live up to his surname and combat that with ill-conceived comedy bits.
Displaying the self-contented confidence that could attract such an accomplished cast (but not a major distributor), Levitas' script falls flat again and again. Devoid of anything but angst, Hedlund's protagonist is an unlikable brat whose appeal to Emily, Meredith, and Carrie is an unsolved mystery. Jenkins (whose briefly-seen hairpiece is an odd poster/cover art choice yet more understandable than the one to omit an Amy Adams picture) is better than this, but cannot elevate or save the subpar material, nor can the usually terrific Adams in her limited screentime.

One is reluctant to criticize Lullaby too harshly. There seems to be little doubt that Levitas, a New Yorker who moved to Los Angeles at age 20, is drawing from his own painful, personal experiences. If nothing else, this film may have been a form of catharsis for him. For us, it's just painful, as the film plods along to its predictable outcome, taking way too long with its brisk, random detours.

Following last month's virtually non-existent theatrical release and concurrent on-demand availability, Lullaby comes to DVD, but not Blu-ray at the end of July from ARC Entertainment.

Lullaby DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $20.99
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lullaby's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is not great, but it's okay for standard definition. The picture looks more compressed and less stable than it should, lacking the sharpness of most contemporary film. Nonetheless, there are no specific concerns beyond that.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes minimal use of the surround channels, but does spring to life for a film-closing musical performance that is somehow both random and too on the nose. English SDH subtitles are provided.

Playing longtime wife and mother Rachel, Anne Archer is one of five Academy Award-nominated cast members. Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) strolls down a hospital hallway on the Lullaby DVD main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

In typical ARC Entertainment fashion,
Lullaby isn't joined by any bonus features other than its trailer (2:27).

The disc opens with menu-inaccessible trailers for Louder Than Words, A Short History of Decay and Beyond the Trophy.

The animated main menu plays matted-wide clips in a rectangle over the cover art's skyline.

There are no inserts inside the slipcovered keepcase.

Karen (Jessica Findlay Brown) argues passionately against euthanasia in an attempt to change her father's mind. Jennifer Hudson, the cast's lone Oscar winner, plays impatient, unhelpful Nurse Carrie.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The talented actors of Lullaby can't hide the obvious shortcomings of its inconsistent presentation. This choppy hospital drama often depresses and rarely engages with its seemingly highly personal storytelling. There's a reason why this is essentially going straight to DVD and it is the obvious, usual one: it's not appealing or good enough to attract a paying audience to theaters. Fans of the cast may want to give this minor film a look, but I doubt even they will find much to enjoy about this bleak tale.

Buy Lullaby from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Garrett Hedlund: Inside Llewyn Davis Tron: Legacy | Jessica Brown Findlay: Winter's Tale
Richard Jenkins: A.C.O.D. happythankyoumoreplease Eat Pray Love Step Brothers Killing Them Softly Jack Reacher Dear John
Jennifer Hudson: Dreamgirls Sex and the City | Terrence Howard: Prisoners Dead Man Down | Anne Archer: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Amy Adams: Her Trouble with the Curve American Hustle The Master The Fighter Doubt The Muppets Enchanted
August: Osage County Charlie Countryman The Royal Tenenbaums Flight The Darjeeling Limited Million Dollar Baby
New: Heaven Is for Real Ragamuffin The Lunchbox Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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Reviewed July 16, 2014.



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