Diminished Capacity

Following an incident which has left him with concussion, Chicago journalist Cooper (Broderick) is having trouble with his short-term memory. He’s also getting headaches and there’s something else as well... oh yes, he’s having trouble with his short-term memory. Meanwhile, his Uncle Rollie (Alda) has been diagnosed as having "diminished capacity", the doctor’s cute term for Alzheimer’s. As a result, Cooper’s mother who lives with Rollie asks her son to visit them in the country to talk his uncle into moving to assisted living arrangements. However, Rollie has another idea, namely selling a rare baseball card to fund buying his own place. So with ex-girlfriend Charlotte (Madsen) and her young son in tow, Cooper and Rollie make the trip to Chicago.

There’s a fine line between mocking the afflicted and finding humour in even the most difficult situations but writer Kiraly and director Kinney get it right in this lightweight comedy. Largely predictable but also gently amusing, it’s helped out by the likeable cast. Broderick does a good line in dazed and confused and Madsen plays her part too but it’s really veteran Alan Alda who lights up the screen. Enthusiastic and delighted, then bewildered and subdued, the former M*A*S*H star is pitch perfect throughout and it would be a cold-hearted soul who didn’t warm to him and the film. It could be argued that taking a light-hearted approach to such a serious subject matter is being flippant. But all the laughs are in good taste and in a world where any kind of mental illness is virtually taboo, any attempt to bring it more into the public consciousness ought to be applauded.

Diminished Capacity at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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