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Review: ‘Meadowland’ is an incomplete view of loss and grief

‘Meadowlands’

Olivia Wilde in a scene from “Meadowland.”

(Handout)

A year after the mysterious disappearance of their child, grade-school teacher Sarah (Olivia Wilde) and cop Phil (Luke Wilson) find their approaches to grieving are threatening to become a permanent fracture in the woozy drama “Meadowland.”

Screenwriter Chris Rossi’s earnest wallow in the vicissitudes of mourning may remind you of the similarly structured “Rabbit Hole,” in which the broken husband and wife each pursued therapy in separate ways. Things are less stable here, however. The self-medicating Sarah perilously downshifts from reality when she intrudes on the life of a troubled student and his neglectful mother (Elisabeth Moss), while Phil joins a support group in which his need for answers and justice becomes corrupted.

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Reed Morano, an accomplished cinematographer making her directorial debut, does a fine job hewing to her uncoiling characters like a shroud, and her actors are up to the task: Wilde looks like she’s melting more with each scene, while Wilson — always an underrated everydude — easily draws our sympathy whether holding it together or lashing out.

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But too often in “Meadowland,” one of those indies committed to mood over matter, there’s the sense that we’re only trailing the damaged. Though the film is well made, the all-aftermath approach to “Meadowland” leaves a lot — an establishing, enlightening character stability, for one thing — to be desired.

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“Meadowland”

MPAA rating: R for language, a scene of strong sexuality, some drug use.

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Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles.


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