Marvin's Room [1996]

Genre: Drama
Scott McPherson's off-Broadway hit made a strong transition to the screen in this 1996 film by director Jerry Zaks. Diane Keaton stars as a woman who, while taking care of her vegetating father in Florida, discovers that she has leukemia. Only her long-estranged sister (Meryl Streep) or the sister's children can provide a possible match for a bone-marrow transplant. But the reunion is a rocky one, marked both by Streep's guilt at having abandoned her sister to take care of their father, and by the explosive dynamic between Streep and her rebellious, pyromaniac oldest son (Leonardo DiCaprio). As grim as this all sounds, there is a strong vein of black humor running through it that has the viewer laughing at unlikely moments (particularly Keaton's visits to her distracted doctor, a surprisingly funny Robert De Niro). But rest assured: tears will flow, even as the film makes you reassess all of your own family relationships. --Marshall Fine

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