Starring John Hamm, Catherine Keener, Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Nick Offerman, John Ortiz, Amber Tamblyn, James Le Gros,
From the director of The Mothman Prophecies, comes an ensemble drama that takes a look at the objects and possessions one acquires in a lifetime. The story and characters of this film are presented as a mosaic, with each short segment bleeding into the next one, but never making a full circle. Nostalgia explores the many facets of belongings from different people, some old and passed away, others taken in the prime of their life and discarded memorabilia that no one wants anymore. “Can what we hold in our hands be the same as what we hold in our hearts,” one characters asks. There are superb performances sprinkled throughout the film, none more effecting than Oscar nominee Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar).
We first meet an insurance appraiser (John Ortiz) who has an appointment with a man at the end of his life (Bruce Dern), hording un-valuable things he calls “trash.” His granddaughter (Amber Tamblyn) is resentful that she must deal with her grandfather’s stubbornness and property, because she’s the relative that lives closest to him. Next there is an elderly woman (Burstyn) who has lost everything she owns in a devastating house fire and the only object she managed to save was her deceased husbands cherished vintage baseball. Then we meet a Las Vegas memorabilia collector (John Hamm) who spends his time buying valuable things from those looking to get rid of them and soothe their pain with money.
Has a dedicated cast and moments of inspiration
Nostalgia isn’t pieced together like Crash or other large ensemble pieces. The audience gets short 10-15 minute segments with each character, then it’s on to the next scenario. Almost every character’s design offers the viewer some emotional treasure to contemplate how they might feel or react in similar circumstances. Nostalgia isn’t a great film, but it certainly has a dedicated cast and moments of inspiration. One of the tests I always apply to films of this nature, is asking myself if any of the scenarios could work on their own, as a full-length feature. Most of them in this film could, especially the characters Catherine Keener and Burstyn embody; Hamm’s not so much.
Nick Offerman’s character delivers a sobering lecture concerning parental attachment to objects. What might seem a one-sided view is later balanced, then contradicted as the film progresses. I’m not sure that the script fully sustains its overall purpose throughout each vignette. We sway back and forth from the notion of possessions and their value, especially in the final scenario with Keener, which I won’t spoil. Nostalgia is the type of film, when watched with family or even friends, can conjure up conversation about our own personal attachment to certain belongings. Nostalgia isn’t entertainment as much as it is therapy or a gentle wake-up call.
While imperfect in structure and message, Nostalgia is full of great performances and enlightenment.