Blogs » FLIX! » Review: Decoding Annie Parker (2014) two remarkable women battle breast cancer in this loosely based true story that is handled with humor



DECODING ANNIE PARKER (2014) Samantha Morton, Helen Hunt, Aaron Paul, Alice Eve, Maggie Grace, Rashida Jones, Corey Stoll, Marley Shelton. Directed by Steven Bernstein

Back in the 70's if you, your mother, and your sister were all diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors considered it "a stroke of bad luck," this was at a time before it was proven that there was a genetic link to breast cancer. In 1965 when Annie Parker was 14 she watched her mother succumb to the disease and a few years later her older sister Joanie. Annie also knew that her cousin had passed away from breast cancer and she figured this has to be more than just bad luck so she started doing research on her own and became obsessed with checking for lumps on a daily basis. What Annie Parker felt was inevitable materialized in 1980 when, at the age of 29, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the first of 3 bouts with the disease for this Canadian mother, who survived all three.

The film is loosely based on Annie Parker's true story with Samantha Morton in the title role. I've always enjoyed Morton's work as an actress and her impassioned performance drives the film that suffers from a couple of missteps. The movie also chronicles the work of Dr. Mary-Claire King played by Helen Hunt, who discovered the BRCA1 gene which can be passed down genetically, increasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Through the entire film Parker writes letters to King but they go unanswered and it's not until the ending that the two actually meet and only briefly. Hunt doesn't have very many scenes in the movie although her role is significant to the story and I feel her talent should have been better utilized. Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul plays Annie's husband Paul, a pool cleaner with aspirations of being a rock star, he's funny but he also delivers one of the most heartbreaking speeches in the film. Corey Stoll as Dr John and Rashida Jones as his secretary and a former nurse, Kim are good in the film, the two befriend Annie early on and help her with the research to find a genetic link to the cancer in her family.

The movie opens with a quote from Annie Parker, "My life was a comedy, I just had to learn to laugh", and for such serious subject matter there are quite a few funny scenes. Director Steve Bernstien who also co-wrote the screenplay, injects enough humor in the film that the audience doesn't feel gloomy and depressed and the movie ends on an uplifting note. There are a few Lifetime movie of the week moments and I would have enjoyed more scenes with Helen Hunt as Dr. King, but all around the performances are good in this film that tells the story of two remarkable women leading very different lives but fighting the same battle.

(3 stars)

Now showing at The Sundance Cinema (Houston) and available VOD.