I’ve become wary of films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 that offer leading roles to veteran actors and coast on the goodwill they have built up with audiences over many decades’ time. The Miracle Club isn’t exploitive of its eminent cast, but there is no question that this slight drama wouldn’t be worth discussing (let alone seeing) if not for Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, Laura Linney and Stephen Rea.

I wound up liking the picture more than I expected to because ultimately it is a story of forgiveness and understanding, two qualities that seem to be scarce these days. Any movie that encourages people to be kinder to one another gets my vote.

Linney plays a black sheep who returns to her tiny Irish village after many years away. The cause is her mother’s death, but her very presence rattles skeletons in the proverbial closet shared by Dame Maggie and Kathy Bates. It takes a while for screenwriters Joshua D. Maurer, Timothy Prager and Jimmy Smallhorne to reveal precisely why Linney has been demonized by women she was obviously close to at one time. They begin to reach a détente as the parish priest takes them on a field trip to the birthplace of miracles, Lourdes.

No great revelations ensue, but a thaw in the general temperature sets in. Director Thaddeus O’Sullivan, a veteran of English and Irish television and film, doesn’t overplay his hand or stir up an excess of blarney. It’s easy to watch these actresses at work and it’s always good to see Rea, one of this generation’s unsung treasures. The Miracle Club is a modest endeavor that achieves its goals and serves as counter-programming against Hollywood’s epic summer fare.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024