It's always a pleasure to behold Karen Allen, her warmth and beauty undimmed since such early movies as "Animal House" and "A Small Circle of Friends." Which makes it all the more depressing that she's saddled with such a soggy lead role in "Year by the Sea," a groan-worthy adaptation of Joan Anderson's memoir, scripted and directed by Alexander Janko.
The film, which tracks empty nester Joan's (Allen) soul-searching year renting a rustic cottage on scenic Cape Cod (nicely shot by Bryan Papierski) is low on subtext but high on pushy bromides, forced joie de vivre and contrived obstacles. The soundtrack alone, with its intrusive string of montage-backing soft rock tunes, could shut down less forgiving viewers.
How Joan reconfigures her life away from cranky, longtime husband Robin (Michael Cristofer) after he cavalierly chooses to move them from New York to Kansas, has the potential to inspire and empower. Unfortunately, this overlong picture rarely feels particularly authentic, especially regarding Joan's writing, her dynamic with Robin and many self-realizations.
As Joan's ebullient new best friend, Celia Imrie makes Ruth Gordon in "Harold & Maude" look positively morose, while S. Epatha Merkerson, as Joan's ebullient old best friend, energizes an essentially tacked-on role. Yannick Bisson has presence as Joan's hunky fisherman boss and platonic pal.
‘Year by the Sea’
Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal Theatre, West L.A.; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena