TAMMY’S ALWAYS DYING – Review by Lois Alter Mark

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Fans wondered what role Felicity Huffman would come back in after going to jail for her real-life role in the high-profile college admissions scandal.

Although the movie was shot before all that drama, it’s interesting that Huffman returns to the screen in Amy Jo Johnson’s Tammy’s Always Dying, playing a real loser. Tammy is a perpetually down on her luck alcoholic who heads to the local bridge when she can’t pay her bills at the end of every month, only to be talked down by her daughter, Catherine (Anastasia Phillips).

In theory, Huffman should garner sympathy for this character who considers herself one of the “nothing people,” someone who has no hopes or aspirations of lifting herself out of her circumstances.

With a different script, that might have been true. But Tammy is so over the top, she’s little more than a stereotype. We never learn about her background or get to really know her as a person. What we do know just makes her unlikeable. She seems to have no redeeming qualities.

The only reason we care about her at all is because of the toxic effect she has on Catherine. At 35, Catherine basically has no life other than to care for her mother and make sure she doesn’t actually jump off that bridge. She works as a bartender and has sex with a married guy she doesn’t really care about. She’s never left her hometown and she sees no way out until Tammy is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

If Tammy genuinely appreciated Catherine’s sacrifices, we might soften a little but, instead, she constantly puts her down and makes her feel bad about herself. In fact, Tammy tells Catherine the only thing her daughter is good at is taking care of her. As for Tammy herself, she’s proudly admits, “I’m not a good person, I’m a good time.”

Tammy’s Always Dying deals with so many powerful and important issues, especially the idea of kids having to parent their bad parents. In trying to be a dark comedy, though, the movie just falls flat – it’s not funny enough to be a comedy and it doesn’t take its subject matter seriously enough to be taken seriously itself. It simply comes off as a TV movie of the week.

When Catherine yells at her mother, “Why won’t you just die?” we can’t help echoing her wish.

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Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis. A former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also reviewed films for NickJr.com for many years. She is a member of San Diego Film Critics Society and tweets from @loisaltermark. She writes about travel for USA Today and Forbes.