God Said, Ha!
Although she probably would have settled for less scintillating material, the drama of former SNL cast member Julia Sweeney’s life makes for a compelling monologue. She endured both divorce and the bombing of her starring feature debut, ”It’s Pat.” She survived the slow death of her beloved brother Mike from lymph cancer, during which he moved into her small L.A. house, as did her parents, decamped from Spokane. And then, while she was nursing Mike, she herself was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer.
From the bitterest of lemons, the very likable Sweeney — who has found a gentle voice (and a good therapist) with which to transform darkest irony into art — developed a sweet lemonade of a stage show. The successful theater piece was adapted into a book — and is now recycled into a film that suffers from the kind of inherent formal limitations that regularly frustrate monologues-turned-movies, even those as inventive as Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia. It’s a person on a stage, telling something dramatic and funny meant for a live audience, that we experience without any of the thrill that comes of being in the room with the storyteller; it’s a standing-still performance, recorded in a medium hungry for visual action. B-