Hilary “Million Dollar Baby” Swank’s latest transformative performance has her taking on the doomed descent of someone suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. ALS is probably best-known these days as the “Ice Bucket Challenge” disease.
If that’s a glib way of characterizing “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” it suits this “Disease of the Week” film treatment of it — glib.
Swank shows, in gestures and gasping, hoarsening voice, the progression of the illness from that first dropped glass to the moment Kate, her character, realizes that her career as a concert pianist is over.
That’s when she meets Bec (Emmy Rossum), a would-be songwriter, perpetual college student and hard-drinking caregiver prone to one-night stands and tactlessly blurting out whatever thought pops into her head.
Such as this plug for why she should become Kate’s helper-nurse.
“I can’t cook anything. Not even Pop Tarts.”
Even though Kate’s detail-oriented husband (Josh Duhamel) disapproves, this is who Kate wants managing her life and body as she loses control over both. And even Bec’s giggling, clumsy handling of that first time she helps the wheelchair-bound Kate use the bathroom doesn’t change the patient’s mind.
Rossum plays Bec as fiesty, but self-involved and not the sort of young woman who gets all weepy over her employer’s death sentence. The hardest things to believe here is Kate’s decision to hire her and any growing affection between them. They’re quite different, as their attempts at girltalk make plain. Bec is rude, a hard-swearing, unfiltered sort and inept at many of the things Kate needs.
The renowned stage director turn “chick picture” director George C. Wolfe (“Nights in Rodanthe”) has a nice touch with several scenes. We never see Kate’s doctor’s face. He is blunt, professional, distant and anonymous.
“This process only moves in one direction.”
Duhamel is decent at playing the noble heel of a husband, and Rossum is best at playing the gorgeous girl who dresses down, drinks and embodies Kate’s philosophy of misplaced love.
“Why is it that we want the ones who see us instead of the ones who do?”
But Bec keeps translating for Kate, whose inability to breathe is making her hard to understand. Only it isn’t. Swank is close-miked and perfectly understandable. Loretta Devine (“For Colored Girls”) is more vital and wholly believable as a fellow ALS sufferer in just a couple of upbeat but sad, gasping scenes (Ernie Hudson plays her husband).
ALS is a terrible disease, worthy as a cause and as the subject of a movie. But even though its parameters are vividly sketched out here, “You’re Not You” fails to bring us the fear or the tears that this story warrants. It sticks in the mind no longer than it takes you to change shirts after that ice bucket dunking.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content, language and brief drug use
Cast: Hilary Swank, Emmy Rossum, Josh Duhamel, Loretta Devine, Ali Larter
Credits: Directed by George C. Wolfe , screenplay by Shana Feste and
Jordan Roberts . An eOne release.
Running time: 1:42