The movie kinda freaked me a bit because Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is named “Sherry” and her brother is “Bobby”, just like my parents.  Except my parents aren’t siblings.

SherryBaby stars Gyllenhaal as a recovering junkie.  She’s just coming out of jail on probation, which means her brother and his wife have been raising Maggie’s little girl.  They’ve understandably become quite attached to the child and are reluctant to just release her into the arms of Gyllenhaal.  On the flip side, while in prison, Gyllenhaal used her child as a way to get clean, and is desperate to begin a new life with the girl.  So there’s the dilemma.  A relatively normal, loving, middle class family who have been almost the only family the girl knows.  And the birth mother, fighting to stay off drugs and with few marketable skills, who cares very deeply about her daughter, but in many ways hasn’t grown up.

Gyllenhaal’s performance generated much Oscar buzz during the 2006 season.  She was nominated for Golden Globe in the drama category, along with Penelope Cruz (Volver), Dame Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Kate Winslet (Little Children), and winner Helen Mirren (The Queen).  All four non-Maggie nominees received the Oscar nod, with Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) grabbing the fifth spot.  Gyllenhaal, in fact, has yet to receive an Oscar nomination.  And yeah, I probably would have slotted her above Penelope Cruz in this group, but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t consider it the fifth-best performance of the year.

I appreciated Laurie Collyer’s bold and daring script, but felt it occasionally went off-track.  Gyllenhaal’s father issues, for example, may have been necessary to paint the character, but were handled haphazardly.  Indeed, the film, at times, struggled to build a consistent character.  As the film flits across a few different isolated, sketched-out events, Gyllenhaal’s life doesn’t quite feel defined enough to really understand her.  Still, Sherrybaby is a solid film, gripping at times, occasionally emotional.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but Danny Trejo is awesome.

Three Stars