Mark Reviews Movies

All I Wish


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Susan Walter

Cast: Sharon Stone, Tony Goldwyn, Liza Lapira, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Gibson, Caitlin FitzGerald, Famke Janssen

MPAA Rating: R (for some sexual content and partial nudity)

Running Time: 1:34

Release Date: 3/30/18 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 29, 2018

The point of All I Wish, one supposes, is to see the progression of Senna (Sharon Stone) from her 46th birthday to her 50th. The idea is sound, since the changes that we typically see from characters in these sorts of romantic comedies don't take place overnight—despite what the movies try to tell us. Writer/director Susan Walter may give us a much longer timeline on which the main character undergoes a transformation for the better, but with the story's structure, the movie doesn't actually show us that change.

The premise is that we jump into Senna's life on a single day—her birthday—over the course of five years. On her 46th birthday, she's a relatively unambitious woman, with a seemingly dead-end job buying clothing for a fashion boutique, a habit of smoking marijuana throughout the day, and a line of random guys for one-off flings. Senna has goals, namely to open her own fashion store featuring her own designs, but she really hasn't worked to achieve them. As for men, she's pretty much against the idea of serious relationships, let alone marriage, and nobody—from her friends, to her mother, to any of the men she has ever encountered in her life—seems capable of changing her mind on the subject.

Obviously, the path of the story here should be apparent. Senna is going to straighten out her life. The way in which Walter structures that story, though, means that we never see the character's decisions or the work she has to do in order to achieve her goals. We're only left to see the results, as each year brings her one step closer to her dream life.

It's inherently anticlimactic, because, in one year, Senna is struggling and, in the next year, she already has made major strides toward her destiny. There's little reason to root for the character, because every fade to black, with text announcing "the next birthday," announces a series of choices and actions to which we aren't privy. On a fundamental level, the point of drama is that an audience can witness people and events in the process of change. Walter denies that to us with this story.

Instead, we're presented with a series of episodes, in which Senna, having gone through a series of changes off-screen, is mostly static. She is the woman she is at that given, frozen moment in time, and her concerns are rarely about anything significant. On the first birthday here, she is fired from her job, has her yearly birthday lunch with her mother Celia (Ellen Burstyn), and ends up at a surprise party held by her best friend Darla (Liza Lapira). The other momentous event is meeting Adam (Tony Goldwyn), a friend of Darla's whom she's attempting to hook up with Senna. The meeting goes poorly, of course, as Adam insults Senna to her face, unaware that she's the woman he's supposed to meet.

Most of the movie, in fact, is about the relationship between Senna and Adam, which starts awkwardly, grows warmer (for all we know, in the matter of a few hours), becomes something neither character expected, is strained to the point of breaking, and resolves itself in the most predictable, unearned way imaginable. This is a strange way to focus a story about a woman who has little to no interest in such a relationship and who, in pretty much every other way, is primarily working to achieve her career goals. We have to assume that her career is of outmost importance to Senna, of course, since the actual work happens outside of our view.

What we do see is a series of minor complications on every birthday. There's some worry about the start-up funding for Senna's store (an important detail that seems odd for her to wait until the last minute to secure), which is resolved twice with the separate help of her mother and Adam. There's the inevitable moment when Senna's mother, who is the first person to call her daughter on her birthday, doesn't call one year. Whatever drama could be present in these scenarios is either rushed through or held off until the next year, when it's brushed aside for the relationship stuff.

That material is unconvincing for the same reason. There's no sense of these two as a couple or of their relationship in flux. Their romance simply exists, then doesn't, and then waits in a corner until the story has to end. A lot changes for them and for Senna specifically in All I Wish, but without the capacity to see that change in action, there's no reason to care about it.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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