“Diane” celebrates life by observing how the act of living requires companionship and loyalty from a circle of friends that doesn’t always include family. As portrayed by Mary Kay Place, Diane has many sides to her character, yet she always projects a kindly façade no matter how turbulent events are.
“I wrote a movie where the majority of characters are women in their 60s and 70s,” says writer and director Kent Jones. “The movie was written for Mary Kay and no one else. But I needed good actresses to play the other roles, and I got them.”
When she’s not volunteering at the local soup kitchen, Diane worries about her friends as well as her drug addicted son to the neglect of her own personal happiness. The supporting cast includes Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Joyce Van Patten, Deirdre O’Connell and Glynnis O’Connor. Jake Lacy plays Diane’s troubled son Brian.
Diane’s relations outside her son are full of camaraderie and the kind of friendship based on long-term acquaintances.
“With a low budget you can’t shoot in order of the film’s continuity,” notes Jones. All of the scenes with Diane and Brian were shot over a couple of days, but the arc of his character, dealing with change, unfolds over the course of the movie.
Brian is at first a heroin addict, but then he’s kicked that habit for religion. Just when Diane thinks she’s reached a steady plateau with her son, having supported him with tough love during his addiction, Brian and his wife invite her over for dinner, only to turn the preach volume up to eleven.
“That’s what the movie is about,” says Jones. “When it’s there you feel safety and warmth thinking about the fact that these people won’t be there forever.”
“Diane” was shot over a period of twenty days in four weeks, with no weekends. “We had one extra day at the end without the cast were we shot some of the driving shots,” says Jones. “We would shoot long days but you reach a point where you don’t want to cut into the next day’s time.”
Kent Jones is no stranger to cinema. In addition to his book on film criticism, “Physical Evidence,” and programming the prestigious New York Film Festival, Jones has previously helmed memorable documentaries about Val Lewton and Elia Kazan, the latter co-directed with Martin Scorsese. Jones also made the documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” a 2015 examination of the friendship between the two giant filmmakers that’s populated by talking heads from a modern who’s who of international directors.
Francois Truffaut would let the feelings of his films bubble slowly towards the surface but in the last scene there would be a dam bursting with emotion. “Diane” uses that structure with a dynamic closing sequence that will leave audiences talking.
“Those are things I admire,” says Jones. “It’s a sense of economy. You mention ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ and it’s something that Hitchcock says: ‘You should not waste an establishing shot trying to establish something.’ What he means by that is, don’t use just any shot. Wait to show the perfect angle that will make the maximum impact in terms of the scene.”
“Diane” also has a unique way of depicting the passing of time. “I wanted the passage of time to sneak up on the viewer,” says Jones about the ending that seems to occur years after the rest of the movie.
“There are times in people’s lives where a lot has happened and you can’t make sense of it all in real time,” he says. “It makes more sense when it’s faster, that’s what I wanted to catch.”
While the action takes place in Western and Central Massachusetts where Jones grew up, the film was shot in smaller New York towns like Kingston and Saugerties.
In one scene, we observe Diane getting smashed at a bar. Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” plays on the soundtrack, yet it’s a live version. “It’s off of one of the Rolling Thunder Bootlegs that were released years ago,” says Jones.
But there’s another Dylan angle. Saugerties “was where The Band recorded ‘Music From Big Pink,’ and Dylan lived nearby in Woodstock,” says Jones. “We shot in New York State for tax breaks and economic reasons. But it is very much the same part of the world.”
“Diane” opens exclusively this weekend at the Landmark River Oaks and the Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra.