Before You Know It (2019)

Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock appear in "Before You Know It" (photo by Anna Kooris)

Hannah Pearl Utt makes her directorial debut with the funny “Before You Know It” in which she plays a restrained stage manager named Rachel who operates a small New York City theater just below the apartment she lives in with eccentric sister Jackie (Jen Tullock) and her coming of age daughter Dodge (Oona Yaffe), and their playwright father Mel (a wonderful Mandy Patinkin). Dysfunctional hijinks ensue as the grown daughters attempt to reconnect with their absentee mother (Judith Light), now a famous soap opera star who belongs on a telenovela, and then there’s Alec Baldwin as the worst therapist in NYC.

Mandy Patinkin is charming as Mel, the past-his-prime theater actor, and playwright who should have retired years ago, but his adult daughters, especially Jackie, keep pushing him to keep going. When he suddenly passes away, the sisters discover that the small Greenwich Village theater they thought their father owned, belongs to their presumed dead mother Sherrell (Judith Light) who is alive and well and working in NYC on a popular network soap opera.

Light is amusing as the overdramatic and dizzy mother who is visited on the set by her daughters who drop the bombshell. As the three women sort out what happened (good thing Mel is dead) they begin to reconcile their past to have a mother-daughters relationship with some very funny moments along the way.

The film features a rotating supporting cast of characters led by 13-year old Oona Yaffe who appeared on the second season of Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef Junior. The teenage newcomer delivers a realistic performance as Jackie’s awkward tween daughter Dodge who is coming into adolescence. Alec Baldwin shows up in a small role as Dodge’s inept therapist while Mike Colter (Marvel’s “Luke Cage”) plays accountant Charles whose daughter Olivia (Arica Himmel) befriends Dodge.

“Before You Know It” features a wonderful cast and a storyline that’s centered around director and co-writer Hannah Pearl Utt’s character Rachel who is trying to break free from her family. Set among a scenic NYC backdrop there is a Greta Gerwig vibe that permeates throughout the film. Good performances, whimsical dialogue, and funny moments make this a memorable visit to the cinema.

(3 stars)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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