Judge Dennis Prince pines for one more day of his misspent youth—the day the cute red-haired girl next door actually believed he was practicing for a medical internship.
Every family is a ghost story. Sometimes the ghosts come back. Sometimes they never left.
While the premise might seem creepy, For One More Day is a tale of a man's unraveling life upon the death of his mother. 'Chick' Benetto (Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos) is a former pro-baseball player who toils in a sales job and is constantly under the pressure of his relentless father (Scott Cohen, Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America) that he returns to the game. Upon the unexpected death of his loving and caring mother (Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Chick falls into a deep depression and takes to excessive drinking as he attempts to escape the guilt he feels for not being there when his mother most needed him. After nine years of grief, Chick is now losing his own wife and daughter, they who must disassociate themselves with the despondent drunkard. Finally striking bottom, Chick determines to end his pain, once and for all. And, just as he raises the gun barrel to his temple, he sees someone in the distance who might be able to help him put his life back together again over the course of just one more day—his mother.
"You can't be here."
For One More Day sets off to tale a looping tale of personal pain, discovery, and triumphant tribulation all within the realm of fragile human emotion. Told through a series of flashback sequences, Chick Benetto tells an unknown writer his story of near-suicide and how his own mother returned to him for a day to unlock the agonizing mysteries of a father that he so dearly wanted to delight. The desire to please, however, was born out of fear, an emotional weapon of withheld love and approval so unashamedly held over the boy's head. His method was so severe that Chick's father was able to aim the boy's sensibility against that of his caring—yet often overprotective—mother. Chick's dad wanted his boy to succeed in baseball. Chick's mother wanted him to succeed in living a life fulfilled. Chick just wanted to succeed, at his most desperate point, in ending his agony with a single self-inflicted gunshot.
For anyone even vaguely familiar with The Sopranos, those viewers might find difficulty in seeing Imperioli as any character other than Tony Soprano nephew, Christopher Moltasanti. Despite this enviable anchor, Imperioli does well enough as Chick Benetto, a man crumbling under the weight of his spiraling downturn and debilitating despair. He deftly tiptoes the line between that of an emotionally torn boy-man and a grotesque caricature of an irreconcilable alcoholic. The performance becomes a bit sappy at times—at the hands of the slanted narrative—but for the television stage upon which he was intended to perform, Imperioli succeeds.
Ellyn Burstyn fares even better, keying on all the appropriate mannerisms and inflections of a maternal guide who has spent her life in sacrifice for the sake of her family and her children. She plays the anti-wife with calculated understatement, clearly able to allow Posey Benetto to make her case yet still leave the final judgment up to the viewer. Again, however, the narrative meddles with the performances and insists that Burstyn's performance be exploited to hammer home a quasi-feminist statement.
Feminist? Is this really a feminist film in maternal clothing? Could be. The film makes no attempt to mask its disdain for the overpowering father figure, that being young Chick's oppressive and emotionally abusive elder. And while the picture spends plenty of time with older Chick as his mother unlocks the source of her child's painful boyhood, there's little explanation for his father's intimidating insistence that his boy excel at the game of baseball. A late bomb is dropped regarding Chick's father but that is merely a device to further canonize Posey. In the end, the film seems to dislike men to an unequivocal degree and has little compunction about expressing it. This is a betrayal, in execution, to the film's purported theme of preserving the family unit above all costs and challenges. In the end, we find that only one half of the household is held up as worth persevering. The side bearing the offsetting Y-chromosome is discarded as superfluous, so it seems. This reduces For One More Day to being just another touchy-feely emotional journey aimed at the female viewers, be they married, divorced, or somewhere straddling the line.
From a technical standpoint, For One More Day exceeds expectations within this DVD presentation. First, it's good to see the option for viewing the film in either 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen or in the cropped full frame broadcast version. The image quality is quite good with decent detail and competent contrast and shadow detail. The color palette is a bit drab at times but not overly distracting. A low level of film grain is present throughout, often heightening—intentionally—when some flashback sequences are playing out. Audibly, this one sounds very impressive. From the opening scenes within the thunderstorm, the soundstage is unexpectedly wide and discreet surround effects are almost impeccably managed throughout the run time. Sadly, there are no extras on this disc; it would have been interesting to learn more about Mitch Albom's novelization and also Oprah Winfrey's embracing of the story.
For One More Day is reasonably entertaining if not heavy handed in its dispensing of "you go girl" chiding, albeit surreptitiously through the dismay of the male lead. While we can—and should—encourage the women and children striving to escape an emotionally abusive household, we can't so readily applaud a tele-drama that discards deeper understanding of the bigger picture behind the abuse in deference for the survival of female heroine. Enjoy it for what it is but expect that strident Oprah followers are being served the ear candy here despite non-followers' tastes.
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