Despite its sappy digressions and occasional tonal inconsistency, 2005's underrated The Family Stone displayed an unpredictable energy that breathed new life into several moribund clichés of the family film: the sibling rivalries, the dying matriarch, the inevitable reestablishing of bonds. By comparison, writer/director/producer Steve Stockman's ineffectual shrug of a deathbed dramedy hardly inspires much response at all. Sally Field (nicely restrained) plays Anita, who knows she's about to lose her battle with cancer and consequently gathers her grown children to her North Carolina home for a final farewell. The kids, vaguely distant but hardly sworn enemies, don't expect Anita to last long, but when she stubbornly clings to life, they grow closer in rather unsurprising ways. Stockman gives the family's daily struggle with mortality an episodic nonchalance, shying away from histrionic monologues and teary revelations. But when he tries to inject some humor with a series of deadpan, absurdist set pieces—including a Five Easy Pieces–esque trip to the grocery store—Stockman never nails the bitterly ironic comedic tenor he hopes will offset the inherent mawkishness of his subject matter. Though the subdued performances every so often find a poignantly understated moment, on the whole Two Weeks feels too detached and well-mannered for its own good. How can you wring laughter or tears from your audience if you aren't willing to risk a little emotional chaos?
Field: Relatively restrained for once.
Opens at Lincoln Square and Meridian, Fri., March 2. Rated R. 102 minutes.