Two Weeks is a Lifetime-styled weepy that tosses in a couple of expletives to garner an R rating. With a couple of minor tweaks, that wouldn't change the effect of the movie, and this would be PG and ready for televised consumption without requiring any cuts for content. Its length, 93 minutes, is already tailored for the small screen. If you count the videotaped framing device, it is already set for commercial breaks. All this makes me wonder if Two Weeks was a made-for-TV movie that was shoehorned into a limited big screen release when they saw the strength of Sally Field's performance, not to mention her return to the limelight following her well-received guest spots on ER and her starring role on Brothers and Sisters (a role which just won her an Emmy).
Something else I have to wonder after watching it is who was this made for? Who is the intended audience for this? It is a question that goes back to the overall Lifetime aura that surrounds the movie. Outside of that, I do not see a widespread audience for this. Those who have gone through something like this don't want to relive it on the screen, and those who haven't, by and large, would probably prefer not being put through the wringer. I have lost a family member within the past year and I was able to identify with some of the situations, if not the characters.
Two Weeks centers on Anita (Sally Field), who is dying of cancer. As the movie opens, and the title indicates, she is in the final two weeks of her life. Her four grown children have descended on the home she shares with her second husband. As the kids arrive, they bicker among themselves over her care and her wishes, as well as opening up a dialogue between themselves which sheds light on their interactions with each other.
The movie plays towards the melodramatic side of the coin, rather than the straight up dramatic. It is a choice which seems to rob the narrative of any real emotional heft. It strikes me as a cathartic experience for writer/director Steve Stockman, who lost his mother to cancer some years earlier.
Perhaps it is the fact that I went through a strikingly similar situation that the differences between this experience and my own were more pronounced. I watch the film and I cannot help but be affected on an emotional level. In some ways there is a stark realism to the film — it is a very genuine situation with some very real feelings dredged up. Still, there is something that is quite unreal, creating a form of detachment for me.
While feelings are dug up, I could not find a way into the characters. While they all had distinctly different personalities, I did not feel I got to know any of them well enough. To further muddy the water, the middle of the film has a number of secondary characters appear and then quickly disappear, never leaving much of a mark. I cannot help but feel that there are large chunks of film that were left on the editing room floor. Then there are the videotaped interludes, which are set up as a video being made for posterity. We get clips of this throughout, which breaks the film down into chapters. There is no real indication of when it was made, although it was clearly prior to the start of the two week timeline. While it may be something nice for family members, it seemed to cut into the dramatic path the film was trying to carve.
Sally Field as the ailing matriarch anchors Two Weeks. Her performance is touching and sweet, and very real. Without her, this movie would have slipped into the abyss of anonymous tearjerker films that get run ad infinitum on those upper cable stations that not many people frequent. Still, none of them are overtly bad, and many have good performances. The supporting cast here includes Ben Chaplin, Tom Cavanagh, Julianne Nicholson (Law & Order: CI), and Glen Howerton (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as the four siblings.
One great moment comes when Anita's husband, Jim (James Murtagh), is talking to his step-kids. They are trying to get him involved, while he feels he is being forced out of his own home as his feelings are being ignored. He goes so far as to describe their arrival as "descending locusts." In a way it is true; it is just too bad we don't get much time with Jim as he deals with his pain.
Audio/Video. The disk I have is a promo copy, so I cannot say that this is how it will look on the production copies. As this disk stands, the audio is fine, but the video is a little fuzzy and not terribly sharp. Hopefully, the production version you will find in the store will look better.
Bonus Material. The disk is a two-sided disk with full and widescreen versions. The extras are also split between the two sides.
- Commentary. The track features writer/director Steve Stockman. It is a decent track, based on the parts that I sampled. He reminisces on the film and his own experiences.
- Deleted Scenes. Four scenes that were excised. One of them probably should have remained, as a part of the film references the event. (4 minutes)
- Group Discussion Guide. A series of text questions designed to help you deal with death.
- Trailers. Once and Family Stone.
- Learning to Live Through Dying. A making of featurette with plenty of decent information. (23.5 minutes)
Bottom line. A bit of a weepy, a bit of a snoozer, not terribly engrossing. Again, it is a film that is going to have limited appeal. Not everyone is going to want to go through this, based on content and not quality. Overall, it is a finely made film, but I think that it could have had a better impact had it avoided the melodrama.