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Dad Review

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When fearsome matriarch Bette Tremont (Olympia Dukakis) is temporarily hospitalised by a heart attack, her son John (Danson), displaying previously unacknowledged New Man sensibilities, steps in to care for his doddering octogenarian father, Jake (Lemmon).

★★★★★

Dad follows on from Field Of Dreams and Parenthood in its examination of family ties and responsibilities, places a suitably thirtysomething-ish emphasis on the bonds between father and son, and takes its own special twist by studying the unique pressures old age can put on family life.

The old man (Lemmon) and his son (Danson) gradually establish a relationship (yes, there is a scene where they play baseball together) which has suffered from far too many years spent apart.

This fairly cosy set-up is rudely interrupted yet again when Jake lapses into a coma on receiving some traumatic news, and John, unwilling to give up what he has suddenly regained, successfully devotes himself to bringing the old man round — conveniently, though unbelievably, ignoring his own previously all-important city job to stay at home and play doctors and nurses. Then, just as things appear to be returning to some sort of normality, Jake reveals a previously hidden and downright bizarre side to his character, and the strength of the family unit is tested once again as Bette, daughter Annie (Baker), John and his own estranged son Billy (Hawke, last seen in Dead Poets Society) attempt to come to terms with the grand old man’s eccentric behaviour.

Produced, directed and adapted from William Wharton’s novel by Gary Goldberg for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment corporation, Dad displays the traditional flaws of a one-man production. It’s overlong, with Jake constantly on what looks like his deathbed only to emerge fit as a fiddle time after time, and worse, the whole production occasionally threatens to cross that fine line between sensitivity and maudlin sentiment.

An interesting, if overly sentimental and, at times, borderline schmaltzy, take on old age that owes Jack Lemmon more than he owes it.

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