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Review: “Decoding Annie Parker” brings tears, laughs and life lessons to festival

Review: “Decoding Annie Parker” brings tears, laughs and life lessons to festival

April 10
23:28 2013

Preston Barta

Film Critic

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Based on the remarkably true story spanning over 15 years, “Decoding Annie Parker” is a film that has a firm understanding of what it is like to receive a terrifying diagnosis out of the blue, the numbness and the overall shock of dealing with it and the friends who really carry you through.

While the film is a bit disjointed, with its shifts in tone not flowing as gracefully as it could have, the power of the story and the inspiration brought on by its title character causes audiences to rejoice in life.

The film, which screened at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dallas International Film Festival, weaves together the story of Annie Parker (Samantha Morton), a woman battling her terminal illness, and Mary-Claire King (Helen Hunt), a geneticist looking for a link between DNA and cancer.

Steven Bernstein has long been a part of the film industry as a cinematographer and writer, but he makes his directorial debut with “Decoding Annie Parker,” a passion project that took nearly six years to bring to life.

While the film does have its fair share of problems, tackling a subject such as cancer is an uneasy task and an enormous risk. However, with this being his first feature film, and boldly taking on a strong revolutionary story, Bernstein did a great tribute to it.

Morton (“The Messenger,” 2009) does an outstanding job expressing Parker’s feelings of great fortitude and isolation. Her performance is simultaneously heartrending and uplifting. She impeccably draws audiences into Parker’s troubled world and has us rooting for her all the way.

Near everyone in the film delivers an imposing performance. Hunt skillfully combines professionalism and determination to play King, a woman who struggled for many years to get funding for cancer studies. In smaller supporting performances, Rashida Jones (“Celeste and Jesse Forever,” 2012) and Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris,” 2011) give the film its much needed humor as two friends that help Parker in her discovery to find why this devastating disease has stalked her and her family.

There are so many ways to do a film about cancer wrong. Thankfully, “Decoding Annie Parker” manages to find a sweet spot in this risky terrain and succeeds in being both entertaining and educating. Audiences will laugh, lament and cheer with this poignant and touching story.

“Decoding Annie Parker” will be holding benefit screenings across the nation throughout the year, but filmgoers can catch the encore screening at the festival today at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas at 4:15 p.m.

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