Film & Television

‘Diane’: Mary Kay Place Shines
in Well-Deserved Leading Role

There are days you just want to laugh. There are days when you want to be delighted. There are days when you go to the movies to escape real life.

If you’re having one of these days, don’t go see Diane.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in watching one of our greatest character actresses take center screen and deliver a performance that is at once steadfast, persevering, riveting, and absolutely courageous, then by all means, go.

Diane, the new film written and directed by Kent Jones and starring Mary Kay Place, has to be one of the dreariest, most hopeless, nearly fatalistic films I’ve ever seen. It is an unrelenting portrait of real life, with all of its challenges and sadness, friends and family, and the inescapable truth that whatever we choose to do or not to do, we are all headed to the same place in the end. And, as we age, that end creeps ever closer as we say good-bye to more and more of the people we love.

Jones is a movie-insider who has organized major film festivals and produced documentaries on Hitchcock and Truffaut, and Elia Kazan. Diane is his first original drama, and he turned to his own youth and family for inspiration. As he explains in a filmmaker’s letter distributed to the select theatres showing Diane . . .

“My need to make Diane began many years ago, when I was a teenager and the great-aunts I’d grown up with were all still alive. There were uncles too, but it was a big, tightly knit New England family dominated by women, ten children born after the turn of the century in the backwoods who lived and raised their own families through the Depression and WWII. They were tough, they were tenderly human, they were mercilessly funny, they were stoic, and there was nowhere I wanted to be more than with them, around the table of my Aunt Kay’s country kitchen in an old farmhouse at the end of a long dirt road bounded by a stone wall built by my Uncle Les. Most of them went through rough times, some of them endured real tragedies. And . . . they went on. They all lived to ripe old ages. We all thought they would live forever, but of course they didn’t. Many people who have seen Diane in festivals have told me that they feel like they’re watching their own families. That’s something I’m always happy to hear.”

Jones was an admirer of Mary Kay Place’s work and told the actress about the project several years before he was ready to shoot it. They stayed in touch while he finished Hitchcock/Truffaut and while he was with his mother when she died from dementia. At that point, he committed himself to Diane. His vision and work paid off. The film has been honored with nominations and awards at several film festivals, including Tribeca (where it picked up three honors, including Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay) and Palm Springs. And, in a vote of confidence from one of Hollywood’s living legends, it was executive produced by Martin Scorsese.

Diane tells the story of a woman in late middle age, living her everyday life in small-town New England. The scenes are set in winter (although across several years) and the overall greyness and lack of sunshine reflect Diane’s routine. Much of her day is spent driving the winding rural highways. She drops off casseroles to friends and family when there’s illness. She volunteers at a local soup kitchen. She plays gin at the bedside of a beloved cousin dying of cervical cancer. She eats at a buffet restaurant with her best friend. She lets herself into her grown son’s apartment to deliver his laundry and groceries, and to make sure he hasn’t died from a drug overdose. She goes to bed; she wakes up; she does it all again.


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  • Diane Dettmann April 9, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Alexandra, thanks for sharing the trailer for “Diane”! Looks like a movie I could relate to considering my name’s Diane. 🙂 Enjoy reading the posts on Women’s Voices for Change.