With “Like Sunday, Like Rain,” sturdy character actor Frank Whaley (“Pulp Fiction,” TV’s “Ray Donovan”) steps behind the camera to present an elegiac, sweet romance between a boy and his nanny.
No, not THAT kind of romance. This is a relationship dramedy about a spoiled, smart but considerate little rich boy and the struggling young woman impulsively hired to be his substitute mom.
Leighton Meester is Eleanor, and when we meet her, she’s tossing her feckless boyfriend’s (Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) guitar out the window of his apartment. She is now homeless, he gets her fired from her waitress job, but there’s hope. A friend hooks her up with a temp firm that doesn’t do much background checking, and next thing you know, there’s distracted, lazy rich mom (Debra Messing) asking a question or two, and giving her the job.
Reggie (Julian Shatkin) is a distracted student, a math prodigy, an accomplished cellist. And he’s 12.
Where Whaley flips the script is that Reggie, who pays off drivers, camp counselors and others just so he can avoid being distracted from his reading and study, isn’t obnoxious.
“I’m just trying to navigate a course toward safety and sanity the best way I know how.”
He humors the cook, speaking Spanish because it’s easier for her, and is nothing if not solicitous to Eleanor. He takes her out to dinner, asks her about her life, makes suggestions (involving his mob-connected driver) about what to do with her stalker ex-boyfriend. He’s kind.
He memorizes poetry, and is dismissive about his own talents for the cello.
“Art, as a language, is dead.”
Whaley keeps this odd relationship on the up-and-up, and Meester effortlessly steps into a sweeter, more vulnerable role than the movies generally give her. Eleanor has problems, growing pains of a different sort from Reggie’s. Young Shatkin does OK by a role that has him reciting a lot of words he’s not that comfortable with.
“Like Sunday, Like Rain” is never broad. It punctures cliches and aside from a couple of swear words, has no reason to wear the idiotic R-rating that the MPAA saddled it with.
The tear-inducing musical finale to this simple and intimate movie will touch you, even if it didn’t get through to the tin-eared ratings board.
MPAA Rating: R for language
Cast: Leighton Meester, Julian Shatkin, Debra Messing, Billie Armstrong
Credits: Written and directed by Frank Whaley. A Monterey Media release.
Running time: 1:44