Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Decoding Annie Parker

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some sexual content
Profanity:Very strong language, sexual references
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and explicit situations
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking
Violence/Scariness:Serious illness with disturbing scenes of symptoms and treatment, very sad deaths
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:May 2, 2014

Rashida Jones and Samantha Morton in Decoding Annie Parker (courtesy of Dorado Media)

This is the true story of two women who share a goal but meet just once, for a few moments.  Oscar winner Helen Hunt plays scientist Dr. Mary-Claire King, whose pioneering research led to one of the most significant medical discoveries of the 2oth century, the BRCA1 genetic marker for early onset breast cancer.  And Samantha Morton plays Annie Parker, a young woman who lost her mother and sister to breast cancer and then, when she was diagnosed with it herself, became dedicated to learning everything she could about the disease.  An outstanding cast, a likeable narrator, and a thoughtful script co-authored by director Steven Bernstein take this out of the easy tears of the disease-of-the-week TV movie category.  It is an absorbing drama with a lot of respect for its characters and a welcome sense of humor.  “My life was a comedy,” a quote from the real Annie says as the movie begins.  “I just had to learn to laugh.”

Annie’s mother died of breast cancer when she was a child, and Annie and her sister (Marley Shelton as an adult) superstitiously believe — or pretend to believe — that Death sleeps in a locked room on the top floor of their house, and that their mother make the mistake of awakening it.  Their father dies when Annie is still in her teens, and we see her at the first of three funerals in the film, with fatuous remarks from the people attending and a skeezy funeral home employee hitting on her.  “A lot of women can’t be cool and in mourning at the same time, but you pull it off.”

A little lost, and overcome with ardor for her musician/pool cleaner boyfriend Paul (“Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul in a series of 70’s and 80’s hairdos that are both horribly ugly and fake-looking), Annie gets married.  They live in the house she grew up in and very soon they have a baby.  And then, the last member of her family, her sister Joan, gets breast cancer and dies, funeral number two, same fatuous remarks and skeezy guy.

And then Annie gets a lump in her breast.  It is cancer.  She has a radical mastectomy and removal of most of her lymph nodes under one arm, followed by chemotherapy.  She becomes determined to learn as much as she can about the disease, even building models of cancer and DNA.  And she becomes a warrior against cancer, checking her breasts and insisting everyone else check, too.  She even offers to check her husband for testicular cancer during an intimate moment.

YouTube Preview Image

Meanwhile, Dr. King is insisting that there is a genetic link and working to find it, despite a lack of support.  She is told it will take ten years for the computers available to her to analyze the data she is collecting from women who are in families with multiple cases of breast cancer.  But Bernstein wisely makes Annie Parker, rather than Dr. King, the focus of the film.  This adds warmth and drama to a story that would otherwise be a lot of people in lab coats getting turned down for grants and crunching data.  Parker makes an engaging guide to the years of struggle faced by both women, with a wry sense of humor and a steeliness of resolve that, endearingly, is as much a surprise to her as it is to everyone around her.  She is very funny quacking (really!) to get the attention of a bored doctor’s office receptionist (Rashida Jones), who later becomes her close friend and ally.  Morton is superb, showing us Parker’s vulnerability as well as her courage, and making us understand the scope and the human dimension of Dr. King’s work.  When they finally meet we see how in an important way they kept each other going.

Parent should know that this film has themes of cancer, illness, and loss, with sad deaths and some disturbing scenes of symptoms and treatment, sexual references and brief explicit situations, adultery, some very strong language, and drinking.

Family discussion: Why did Paul and Annie have such different reactions to illness? How did humor help Annie stay courageous? Read up on Dr. King and her opposition to patenting gene sequences.

If you like this, try: “50/50,” “Wit,” and “God Said Ha!”



  • Amy Byer Shainman

    My wish is that viewers were provided with information at the end of the movie of what to do next…information of what to do/where to go if they felt their own genes were putting them at increased risk for certain cancers.
    Here is the information: Of course you may discuss your concerns about cancer risk with your GP (general practitioner). However, GP’s are not experts in the field of genetics; nor have the time to fully decipher cancer risk. The best first step is to contact a genetics expert. National Society of Genetic Counselors: http://www.nsgc.org or InformedDNA: http://www.informeddna.com

    Amy Byer Shainman
    BRCA Health Advocate
    BRCA1 positive, previvor
    @BRCAresponder on twitter
    @BRCAresponder WEEKLY NEWS http://storify.com/BRCAresponder

Previous Posts

Does PG-13 Mean Anything Anymore?
The Washington Post has an article about a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Parental Desensitization to Violence and Sex in Movies," with some disturbing conclusions about parents' ability to make good decisions about the impact some media may have on their children. This is not

posted 8:00:58am Oct. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Is E-Reading to Kids the Same as Analog Reading?
The New York Times asks, Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time? In a 2013 study, researchers found that children ages 3 to 5 whose parents read to them from an electronic book had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of th

posted 8:00:40am Oct. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Todd and Jedd Wider about the Bullying Documentary "Mentor"
Producers Todd and Jedd Wider generously took time to answer my questions about their documentary, "Mentor," the story of two teenagers who committed suicide following relentless bullying. The film, which received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival th

posted 3:56:57pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Clip: Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ApzHJhZz2JQ" frameborder="0"] The latest in Disney's animated Tinkerbell series adds Ginnifer Goodwin to the cast. Coming in March of 2015, it explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity

posted 1:23:59pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: "Avatar" Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in "23 Blast"
Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in "Avatar." But in "23 Blast," based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about actin

posted 5:56:30am Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.