Thursday, July 18, 2024

“TUESDAY”

THE STORY – A mother and her daughter must confront Death when it arrives in the form of an astonishing talking bird.

THE CAST – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lola Petticrew, Leah Harvey & Arinzé Kene

THE TEAM – Daina O. Pusić (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 111 Minutes


Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) was not supposed to get sick. She was not supposed to die young. She was not supposed to spend her time bound to a wheelchair watching her home health aid study a nursing guide. She also was not supposed to tell a joke to the red-feathered bird who flew into her room as a reply to her internal yearning for death, but she did it anyway. When the bird finally accesses its long-unused voice to laugh, Tuesday is nonplussed. When the bird starts shrinking from all the voices in its head crying out to it, Tuesday recognizes it as a panic attack and helps the bird breathe through it before offering it her marijuana vape and giving it a bath. Her kindness is genuine, but she’s also stalling. Tuesday is ready to die, but she wants to say goodbye to her mother first.

Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was not supposed to be here. She was not supposed to be a single parent to a terminally ill child. She was not supposed to quit her job to deal with the emotional pain, nor was she supposed to sell whatever meager possessions she could to make ends meet. But here she is, still unable to deal with her daughter’s impending death even though it’s been the driving force of her life. When she finally comes home and relieves the home health aid of her duties for the night, Zora certainly wasn’t ready for Tuesday to tell her that she’s dying tonight, much less for a bird to fly out of her ear and grow to normal size, much less still for that bird to tell her in a deep, gravelly voice that her daughter was correct. To say that Zora doesn’t take it well would be an understatement.

Daina O. Pusić’s debut feature “Tuesday” asks a lot of its audience. A size-shifting talking bird is one thing, but a size-shifting talking bird who is also Death incarnate is another. A size-shifting talking bird who is also Death incarnate smoking a vape and rapping along to Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” will be several steps too far for many, and it’s hard to blame them. Pusić maintains steady control over the film’s tone, clearly delineating what is supposed to be darkly comic and what is supposed to be just dark. The film’s more fantastical elements have been developed with a sense of purpose, although the film’s terrifying vision of a world without death while he’s been delayed dealing with Tuesday and Zora begs the question of how one bird was able to administer last rites to every human and animal that dies on this planet every day in the first place.

When you’re able to push logic out of the way and engage with the emotions being displayed onscreen, though, “Tuesday” becomes quite resonant. The more that Zora tries to ignore, stifle, and hide from Death, the more she comes to understand and even respect Death. And the more she talks to Tuesday about how she feels, the more connected they both feel to each other. When the inevitable goodbye finally comes, the high emotions feel earned (even Death himself sheds a single tear). Louis-Dreyfus invests Zora with every ounce of passion she can muster, making even the most ridiculous turns and flights of fancy feel not just grounded but meaningful. She makes Zora’s arc from denial to acceptance tangible, and her ability to find the humor in even the darkest moments makes Zora relatable even when she’s being impossibly frustrating. Her chemistry with Petticrew, who gives an impressively committed performance in the titular role, has all the spikiness and warmth of a real mother-daughter pair, making the impending tragedy even more emotionally affecting.

Humans have long tried to understand, explain, and cope with death. “Tuesday” bears a lot of similarity to other works of art that have done so, but there’s something in the creative spark behind Pusić’s vision that sets it apart. What it’s saying isn’t anything particularly new, but how it says it feels very special. The film’s ultimate message, while delivered quite bluntly, is a beautiful tribute to both those who have died and those who survive: We may not know if there’s an afterlife in the spiritual sense, but memory is a form of the afterlife all its own, and it’s up to the living to keep that memory alive. How we live is how they live. For all the goofiness “Tuesday” gets up to in the early going, Pusić always has that ending in mind, and it lands with the gracefulness and majesty of its avian star.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives her most emotionally affecting performance to date in this one-of-a-kind exploration of maternal grief.

THE BAD - Some will be put off by the tone, others by the more fantastical elements, and still others by the film’s many unanswered questions.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives her most emotionally affecting performance to date in this one-of-a-kind exploration of maternal grief.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some will be put off by the tone, others by the more fantastical elements, and still others by the film’s many unanswered questions.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"TUESDAY"