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Review: A fine Holly Hunter navigates a choppy narrative in Southern drama ‘Strange Weather’

Holly Hunter in the film “Strange Weather.”
(Brainstorm Media)

Holly Hunter gives one of the best performances of her career in writer-director Katherine Dieckmann’s indie drama “Strange Weather,” playing a Southerner reckoning with her son Walker’s suicide. Watching an actress of Hunter’s caliber in a meaty leading role partly compensates for the creaky plot and overearnest tone.

Hunter stars as Darcy Baylor, who works as an administrative assistant at a small university. With her job in danger and her personal relationships stagnating, Darcy hits the road with her best friend Byrd (played by the excellent Carrie Coon).

Dieckmann tries too hard to force a character sketch into a dramatic shape by giving Darcy’s quest a preset endpoint: the Louisiana office of Walker’s old classmate, who stole his lucrative franchise restaurant idea. The harder “Strange Weather” drives toward a payoff, the more it sputters.

But Dieckmann (who previously directed the slice-of-life indies “Diggers” and “Motherhood”) excels at capturing the textures and diversity of her location, showing the South as a varied region where agriculture, academia, poverty and progressivism sit side by side.

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Plus, the filmmaker is savvy enough just to let Hunter work. This performance is built from dozens of tiny, human gestures — from the way Darcy looks defiant and stung whenever she’s criticized, to the way she pets her dog with her bare feet. Darcy’s story may feel contrived, but her character is vividly real.

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‘Strange Weather’

Rating: R, for a scene of sexuality.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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