Movie Review ~ The Miracle Club


The Facts:

Synopsis: In 1967, three generations of close friends in Ballygar, a hard-knocks community in Dublin, have one tantalizing dream: to win a pilgrimage to the sacred French town of Lourdes, that place of miracles that draws millions of visitors each year.
Stars: Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith, Stephen Rea, Agnes O’Casey, Mark O’Halloran, Mark McKenna, Niall Buggy, Hazel Doupe
Director: Thaddeus O’Sullivan
Rated: PG-13
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Bless Me, O Lord, but I nearly wrote off The Miracle Club at first glance because I thought I could detect the faint whiff of cheese from the screen. I’d seen enough of these “old ladies on a bus” films to feel like I knew what was waiting for me at the end of ninety maudlin minutes. Despite liking much of the main cast and still dreaming of a trip to the emerald shores of Ireland one of these years, I was downright unsteady about what I’d find when it came time to sit down and settle in for this dramedy. Would it be able to balance wry comedy with more serious tones of faith or be undercut by its frothy fun?

While it is true that The Miracle Club is going to play like gangbusters for the matinee audience, and you better believe that once it was over, I texted my mother to let her know there’s finally a movie out there that she’d flip for, I was surprised at much genuine warmth I felt toward it. This project could have gone far astray, but it’s kept in line by sincere performances, decidedly unfussy direction, and a script that doesn’t skimp on the charm.

In a working-class suburb of Dublin in 1967, three women are preparing for their church talent show where the grand prize is two tickets to Lourdes, France. Known for its major Catholic monument and as a destination site for many faithful, each woman feels drawn to make the pilgrimage for different reasons. Eileen (Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell) is a hard-working mother of six who has found a lump on her breast and hopes to visit the purportedly healing waters at Lourdes to stave off any disease that may rob her of time with her family. Dolly’s (Agnes O’Casey) son hasn’t yet spoken, and she wants to bring along the young boy to see if time on the sacred site will release whatever is holding him back.

The eldest of the group, Lily (Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey: A New Era), has one leg shorter than the other and walks with a modified shoe, but her healing journey is one of the heart, not the body. Long ago, she lost her son, and the guilt she has carried because of a mistake in judgment has gnawed at her throughout her life. She sees a chance to start to take steps toward that reprieve upon the arrival in town of Chrissie (Laura Linney, Sully), the daughter of Lily’s late friend Maureen (and Eileen’s sister). Gone from the city and living in America for forty years, Chrissie is initially met with a cold shoulder and whispers, but once she joins the women with their church group to Lourdes, they will all have to put the past behind them or risk a future of unresolved pain.

To say the leading ladies of The Miracle Club are a trio of formidable talent is putting it mildly. Smith has been celebrated for decades, winning two Oscars and countless accolades on stage and screen. Whatever positives have been said about her in the past can be applied in superlative here. She’s less acerbic and biting, coming down on the softer side of a withering glance at people she disapproves of, which allows her room for the more sensitive arc her character scales late in the film. I love seeing Oscar-winner Bates taking on a wide variety of roles as her career continues to flourish, and after playing glam earlier this year with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., she goes dowdy but absorbs the sharp tongue Smith relinquished and rides a fine line of too abrasive at times. The real showstopper is Linney, turning in one of her most carefully structured performances in ages. A three-time Oscar nominee, there’s a memory monologue well into the third act that Linney delivers with tremendous grace, even though it’s painful to recall. 

A film that’s been in the works for nearly two decades (and was once almost an HBO TV Movie), director Thaddeus O’Sullivan keeps things brisk and thankfully doesn’t let some of the dreary paternal hierarchy found in the script from Joshua D. Maurer, Timothy Prager, and Jimmy Smallhorne get in the way of the women’s narrative. I have a feeling there will be a sizable number of viewers entering The Miracle Club prepped for a spirited trip only to wind up dabbing their eyes at the end for an altogether different reason than you might expect. Considering the talent in front of the camera, it’s no wonder The Miracle Club is such a treat.

Where to watch The Miracle Club

One comment on “Movie Review ~ The Miracle Club

  1. […] On his site, Botten reviewed new films “Run Rabbit Run,” “Blue Jean,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “The Lesson,” “The Man from Rome,” “Insidious: the Red Door,” “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning,” “The Flood,” “Quicksand,” “Final Cut” and “The Miracle Club.” […]

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