Starring Jon Hamm. Rated PG
You could call this slow walk down memory lane a Very Special Edition of Antiques Roadshow, but that makes Nostalgia sound far more fun than it really is.
There’s surely a good movie to be made about our attachment to older things, but director Mark Pellington—maker of short-form videos for such deep thinkers as Demi Lovato and Linkin Park—is not up to the job. He was able to attract an A-list cast, partially due to the reputation of screenwriter Alex Ross Perry. But the script here is the first thing that should have hit the Dumpster.
Mostly shot in a California that resembles someone’s unlit closet, it starts with Daniel Ortiz as an insurance investigator—or property appraiser or something—in a series of painfully earnest encounters with worthy actors who make sloppy improv errors while whispering about the pros and cons of stuff. Bruce Dern’s cranky geezer old apartment is newly valuable, but he won’t deign to catalogue his detritus, much to the consternation of his impatient daughter (Amber Tamblyn). She complains about this to the insurance guy, who then has pretty much the same conversation with Ellen Burstyn, as a widow whose suburban house just burned down.
We then get similar moans from her son (Nick Offerman), worried that she’ll carry her surviving things “like an albatross”—despite the fact that it all fits in one small cosmetics case. Well, there is the surprisingly valuable baseball that was her late husband’s most prized possession. She apparently ignored decades of his prattling on about scoring a Ty Cobb signature from the 1920s, but now remembers just enough to take it to a Las Vegas memorabilia dealer.
That dealer is played by Jon Hamm, symbolically named Will. He explains that “Some buyers want a story attached to the things they buy, and some don’t care.” Really? Does anyone pay a hundred grand for a stained jersey without some bragging rights included? That’s the level of thought built into an oddly structured two-hour movie that surrenders its second half to Hamm’s character. And guess where Will’s going this weekend? Yup. To clear out his parents’ belongings, now that they’ve moved to Florida.
He shares this burden and more hoary philosophizing with an older sister played by Catherine Keener, asked to do a lot of bogus emoting. After a tragic plot contrivance calls for more hugging and crying, people like James Le Gros and Patton Oswalt show up for extra miserablism. Later, one sad youngster elaborates on the Brazilian-Portuguese word saudade, which is said sow-DAHD-jee and means nostalgialike longing for something elusive. The fact that she pronounces it so-DAID doesn’t bother anyone on-screen, but sums up a well-intentioned movie that is pretty much DOA.