Department: the Waiting Room: Screening Room
(Plum Pictures, 2008; directed by Terry Kinney)
How much are memories worth? That's the million-dollar question that Diminished Capacity explores by drawing a parallel between baseball nostalgia and memory loss. Chicago newspaper editor Cooper Zerbs (Matthew Broderick), afflicted with short-term memory loss after sustaining a concussion, heads home to Missouri to visit his aging Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda), a baseball memorabilia collector suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Rollie shows Cooper a rare 1909 Chicago Cubs baseball card he wants to sell—and soon the men are off to Chicago for a memorabilia convention, with Cooper's high school sweetheart, Charlotte (Virginia Madsen), in tow.
In legal parlance, “diminished capacity” refers to a plea by which the defendant argues that he or she should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law because of impaired mental function. If successful, it results in the defendant being convicted of a lesser offense.
While the film's premise is interesting—a middle-aged man finds himself in a situation similar to that of his elderly uncle, who is unwilling to acknowledge his inability to take care of himself—the lead character is bland, and Broderick seems miscast in the role. The film is also enervated by implausible plot turns and a lack of chemistry between Broderick and Madsen.
On the plus side, Alda brings a poignancy to his role, especially as he realizes the implications of his forgetfulness; more of the film should have been devoted to his character's struggle with Alzheimer's. Baseball fans will enjoy the inside jokes about the Cubs. But viewers looking for an insightful movie probing the ephemeral nature of memory may be disappointed with this rambunctious comedy-drama.
Verdict? Guilty, by reason of diminished capacity.