Maggie Gyllenhaal Tour de Force Released on DVD
In her most demanding outing since Secretary (2002), Maggie Gyllenhaal is magnificent here as Sherry Swanson, a strung-out single mom who has just been released from prison after a stint behind bars for narcotics possession. This grim character study, set in Newark, New Jersey, focuses on a jaundiced junkie’s efforts to prove that she’s kicked the habit while living in a halfway house. But her readjustment to the real world proves to be anything but smooth, as the convert tends to revert to her old, ill-advised inclinations. An incest survivor with serious boundary issues, Sherry is also shown as using sex to manipulate most of the men she encounters. And it doesn’t help that the type of guys she tends to go for aren’t exactly teetotalers.
Her plight is further complicated by the fact that she’s torn between the urge to use drugs again and the desire to regain custody of her daughter, Alexis (Ryan Simpkins). And in order to be reunited permanently, she knows she must prove to her parole officer (Giancarlo Esposito) that she’s clean, stable, and capable of holding down a job.
So, the story’s prevailing tension revolves around whether Sherry will summon-up the intestinal fortitude to conquer her demons. Fortunately, she does have a stable brother (Brad William Henke) who she can’t charm or trick, and he and his wife (Bridget Barkan) are willing to raise Alexis in the suburbs until Sherry can get her act together.
Despite the micro-budget production values, Sherrybaby is an engrossing, bittersweet tale of human failings and redemption which ought to establish Gyllenhaal as one of the best actresses around, her Oscar snub notwithstanding.
Excellent (4 stars)