Movies in Brief: ‘Diminished Capacity’

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The New York Sun

Ferris Bueller may be grown up, but he’s still a Cubs fan. “Diminished Capacity,” a new film opening Friday and starring Matthew Broderick, is as much a story about dementia as it is about Chicago Cubs mania. Mr. Broderick plays Cooper, who loses his short-term memory and his Chicago newspaper column after suffering a concussion in a bar brawl. He travels to a rural section of Illinois on a mission to persuade his senile uncle Rollie (Alan Alda) to surrender himself to a nursing home.

When Cooper finds Rollie, he has turned on a propane stove but forgotten to ignite it. The old man also leaves a typewriter on the dock with bait dangling from its keys into the water below to create what he calls fish poetry. Rollie’s big secret — an extremely rare 1909 baseball card in his collection — is already common knowledge among local townspeople, since he won’t stop bragging about it. He hopes it will be a get-out-of-jail-free card for assisted living. When a Cubs convention arrives in Chicagoland that very weekend, the odd couple hits the road to find out how much Rollie’s treasured card is worth.

Once inside the convention, it becomes apparent that the film’s title isn’t referring solely to the two cases of dementia. Not half as profound as “Away From Her,” Sarah Polley’s 2007 film about a husband coping with his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease, “Diminished Capacity” seems like a literal inside-baseball joke that only die-hard Cubs fans will get. (Look, an Ernie Banks cameo. Let’s play two!) The screenplay, which Sherwood Kiraly adapted from his own novel, attempts but fails to establish a metaphorical parallel between mental disability and baseball obsession before arriving at an inconsequential rant about how the business of sports memorabilia ruins it for the fans by putting price tags on priceless memories.

“Diminished Capacity” marks the directorial debut of Terry Kinney, perhaps best known as Tim McManus on the HBO series “Oz.” As with most actors-turned-directors, he coaxes some top-notch performances from his cast, but his film boasts precious little visual flair. Mr. Broderick basically phones it in as yet another middle-aged loser, but Mr. Alda is in top form. As if trotting to second on a wild pitch, Dylan Baker and Bobby Cannavale easily steal later scenes as rival memorabilia dealers at the convention.

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