TWO WEEKS received a one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles in December 2006. Although the producers and distributors might have hoped that the Academy would take notice of lead Sally Field's strong performance, it was not meant to be. Part of the problem may have derived from the fact that despite her fierce Nicholson, the movie showcasing these women is akin to the regular fare that pops up on the Oxygen or Lifetime cable channels.
It's obvious that this is personal territory for writer-director Steve Stockman and indeed the press notes indicate that Stockman and his siblings were gathered at his mother's bedside and watched her die. He attempts in inject some levity into the situation -- let's face it, even in the face of dire tragedy, comedy sometimes rears its head -- and though he got encouragement in his screenwriting classes, the on screen results feel somewhat forced and not as amusing as they are meant to be.
The film's premise is fairly straightforward: Anita Bergman (Field) is dying from ovarian cancer. Her four children eventually gather at the home she shares with her second husband Jim (James Murtaugh) and spend about fourteen days as she struggles and eventually succumbs to the disease. As with any stressful situation involving one or more parental figures, the various siblings snipe and generally revert to acting as they did as youngsters. There's Emily, the practical one who has purchased a raft of books about dying and death in the hopes of trying to understand and make things go a bit more smoothly. Keith (Ben Chaplin) is a recovering addict who now makes his living in the film industry. Barry (Tom Cavanagh) is a Type-A businessman who finds his mother's illness more of an inconvenience than anything else -- at least at first. And finally, there's Matthew (Glenn Howerton), the baby of the family who is married to the generally disliked Katrina (Clea Duvall).
Over the course of the two weeks, the siblings bicker, deal with visiting spouses and children and watch as their mother becomes sicker and sicker. Interspersed with these scenes are pieces of a filmed interview between Keith and his mother (it is not made clear when the material was shot as Anita appears perky and a bit more healthy). These scenes don't exactly drive the plot forward but they do offer Field the opportunity to build her character.
Stockman, whose background is in commercials, makes a critical error that many first-time filmmakers do: writing autobiographically inspired material without being able to put distance between himself and the subject matter. The character played by Ben Chaplin is obviously meant to be the authorial stand-in, but he is one of the least developed ones in the screenplay. But then, only the roles played by Field and Nicholson feel fully formed. There are intriguing hints at friendships, resentments (particularly on the part of the stepfather who gets one scene to reveal his feelings as an outsider in the family) and other issues, but they are not developed. Despite all the best efforts of Clea Duvall, her character comes off as one-note and unformed.
Chaplin, Cavanagh and Howerton attempt to breathe some life into the one-dimensional parts, but this is really Field's showcase and she delivers. In some ways, though, this film can be seen as a run-through for her richer and more varied lead in the ABC television series Brothers and Sisters.
TWO WEEKS offers some positive views on hospice care and tackles head-on a theme that few American features do, but it lacks the gravitas of something like the European drama THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU. It's something of a shame because if Stockman had perhaps honed his script a little more, he might have made a terrific movie instead of a passable one.
Rating: C- MPAA Rating: R for language, including some sexual references Running time: 102 mins.