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Theo Rossi, Michael Harney and Karen Allen

Theo Rossi, Michael Harney and Karen Allen

“BAD HURT” My rating: B

101 minutes | No MPAA rating

More than three decades after winning our hearts in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Karen Allen reveals herself to be an actress of heartbreaking power.

In Mark Kemble’s “Bad Hurt” she plays Elaine Kendall, matriarch of a struggling blue collar household in New York’s Staten Island. It’s a family threatening to spin apart at any moment; only Elaine’s monumental determination keeps it more or less whole.

The Kendalls have been dealt a tough hand.  Their oldest child, Kent (Johnny Whitworth) has returned from Middle Eastern duty a drug-scarfing wreck literally living in the attic. No job, no prospects. Even the V.A. is tired of dealing with him.

Their second child, DeeDee (Iris Gilad) is a four-year-old mind in a 35-year-old body. Though she works assembling cardboard boxes for a company that caters to impaired individuals, she must be constantly watched. Particularly concerning is her relationship with another developmentally developed young man who, she says, “put his fingers in me.”

The third and final Kendall offspring is Todd (Theo Rossi, Juice on TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”), who drives a shortbus for neighborhood retirees and dreams of becoming a police officer, although he has failed the entrance exam numerous times. He may be a borderline loser, but compared to his siblings Todd is a paragon of responsibility.

The strain of dealing with the kids for so many years has driven Elaine’s husband Ed (Michael Harney of “Orange is the New Black”) to drink. He’s currently on the wagon, but a relapse might happen at any time. Meanwhile the Kendalls’ marriage is shaky — Ed has moved out to a makeshift bedroom in the backyard garage.

It’s a tense, frequently explosive yarn, with just about every cast member getting at least one big moment.

And it comes as no surprise to learn that writer/director Kemble (here adapting his stage play with co-writer  Jamieson Stern) has a sibling with developmental problems. The film’s depiction of DeeDee and her infantile but genuine love for her co-worker Willie is tender, sad and often unexpectedly funny. (And you’d best believe “Bad Hurt” needs all the comic relief it can muster.)

This is Kemble’s first feature film, and for the most part it works. Once we accept that one family could face so many obstacles, the film gets to work illustrating the ways in which we humans deal with the weight of so heavy a load.

 

| Robert W. Butler

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