A mysterious new neighbor throws assorted folks into a tepid tizzy in “Change in the Air,” an airless allegorical dramedy featuring a cadre of Hollywood’s well-experienced but under-employed, and the TV star of the moment.
Her name is “Wren,” and as she’s played by Golden Globe and Emmy winning Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), we might rightly expect something more from the birdlike lady with the avian name.
Wren keeps to herself mostly, gets bags of mail each day and takes long walks with that mail to heaven knows where.
Most of her neighbors think nothing of her, but Joanne (Mary Beth Hurt,who broke out in “The World According to Garp”), the local busier-than-busy busybody, just has to know.
“Are you single? Let’s walk. I can tell you everything you need to know about this neighborhood…We older women don’t take to eccentricities. Unless they’re our own.”
When she’s not monitoring elderly Mr. Lemke (veteran character actor M. Emmett Walsh), who attempts suicide by walking in front of a car in the film’s first scene, she pokes around Wren’s apartment and tries to follow her. She is NOT a “busybody,” she insists.
Mrs. Lemke (Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis) doesn’t know what to do with her despondent, ready-to-die husband. The lonely, aged police officer (Aidan Quinn of “Benny & Joon”) can’t figure this Wren out, can’t get a statement from her about the accident. After hours, he has one exhausted encounter for impersonal “company policy” after another.”
The music-minded mailman (Satya Bhabha) isn’t allowed to be curious about those mountains of letters. The voice teacher (Macy Gray) who rents Wren her garage apartment is too involved with her choir to care.
And Joanne’s ornithologist husband (Peter Gerety) is too wrapped up in the odd bird that suddenly turns up in his yard — a Bali Starling — to get off topic.
“Wrens. They’re highly adaptable…their scientific name literally means ‘cave dweller.'”
Joanne turns off QVC long enough to pester the new arrival with comically blunt questions, and stops work on her self-built casket to speculate on what she doesn’t know.
“I am pretty sure she’s a pen pal for prisoners. LOTS of prisoners. What else could it be? I think she thinks we’ll care.”
And all of this description and plot summary and characterization detail is what you put in a review of a movie that literally lies there, stiff as a corpse.
Hurt can’t make Joanne antic enough to be more than dully entertaining, Walsh doesn’t have a line of dialogue, the sparkling Dukakis long ago lost her fastball and Gerety (“Flight,””Charlie Wilson’s War”) and Quinn, old pros in their own right, can’t find anything interesting to play in this script.
Brosnahan is pretty but absurdly uninteresting in a role that Roma Downey might have brought a bland but more beatific quality to, back in her TV prime. I’d say “Spoiler alert,” but you can’t spoil a picture as undercooked as this.
Director Dianne Dreyer and screenwriter Audra Gorman have worked in the business for years — producing, location-managing, etc. They have contacts and “how to get your film made” know-how.
What they lacked here was a plot, dialogue, characters or dramatic situations that were worth anybody’s time.
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements and brief language
Cast: Rachel Brosnahan, Olympia Dukakis, Aidan Quinn, Macy Gray,M. Emmett Walsh, Mary Beth Hurt, Seth Gilliam
Credits:Directed by Dianne Dreyer, script by Audra Gorman. A Screen Media release.
Running time: 1:34