Film Review: The Miracle Club
The Miracle Club
Director: Thaddeus O’Sullivan
Zephyr Films and City Films Entertainment
In Theaters 07.14
Far too often, an ensemble of stalwart stars serves as cinematic spackle for the holes in weak material, and The Miracle Club is as blatant an example of this that I’ve seen in years.
The Miracle Club introduces us to three generations of women residing in the small Irish village of Ballygar in 1967. Lily (Maggie Smith), Eileen (Kathy Bates) and Dolly (Agnes O’Casey, Ridley Road) share a dream of visiting the renowned French town of Lourdes, where millions of visitors come annually to bathe in the Lourdes waters, seeking a miracle. When the three friends win a trip to Lourdes, they jump at the chance as each has their own need for divine intervention.
Their enthusiasm is dampened due to the unexpected arrival of Chrissie (Laura Linney), a black sheep who shows up in Ballygar for the first time in 40 years. There’s plenty of bad blood to go around, as Chrisse had a row with her mother and departed for America as a teenager, pregnant by Lily’s son. Chrissie left her best friend Eileen without a goodbye, and the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The Miracle Club can’t decide on a tone or even a point to its cloying, overwrought story, which is too sappy and too downright cheesy be called legitimate drama and far too dismal to work as a light comedy—dark subplots involving suicide and cancer hanging over the whole film. The film aims to tug at the heartstrings with something that is part comedy, part feel-good movie, and it fails to work as either one.
The Miracle Club flirts with being interesting enough to justify its existence when focusing on the relationship between Lily and Chrissie, yet this is only one of multiple storylines. Dolly’s plot relies on the tired trope of the child who can’t or won’t speak until such a time as it is most painfully melodramatic, and I rolled my eyes so many times when returning to this plot that I actually got a remarkably clear look at the underside of my brain.
Solid performances lift the film a bit, though the emphasis on making sure that everyone plays up their “Lucky Charms”–style Irish llt often gets in the way. Bates in particular struggles to come across as credible until she gets comfortable enough to start putting the acting ahead of the accent, at which point she rises above the treacly material. Smith is effective, if a bit hammy, and O’Casey makes a very strong impression.
Linney, with her American accent and less-theatrical acting style, feels like she’s in a different movie than the others, though she has a couple of strong moments with Smith. Unfortunately, even at its best, I never for a moment felt like I was watching characters rather than performances. The only truly convincing aspects of The Miracle Club are the gorgeous Irish and French locations.
The Miracle Club is a disposable film that is far from terrible, though the only real miracle here is that anyone thought this was a story worth telling. It’s an entirely manufactured and rather syrupy film that feels like a first draft that wasn’t quite ready to be brought before the cameras. I highly recommend waiting until it’s streaming to watch. –Patrick Gibbs