‘The Miracle Club’ Review: A Pleasant Pilgrimage

A camera soars above Dublin then glides toward a promontory where a solitary figure stands in front of a memorial plaque. A frothy score wrangles our emotions. Don’t get too sad, it seems to say, before the camera closes in on a sorrowful Lily Fox (Maggie Smith).

Set in 1967, “The Miracle Club,” directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, touches on grief and grievances, on unwanted pregnancies and the Catholic Church, while wearing the guise of a redemptive romp. It’s a delicate balance that — even with the impressive triumvirate of Smith, Kathy Bates and Laura Linney — the movie doesn’t always sustain.

Lily’s sojourn is one of multiple pilgrimages in the movie. The central journey takes Lily and her two closest friends, plus the estranged daughter of a recently departed third, to Lourdes, France, where miracles are sought by masses of people each year. Agnes O’Casey plays Dolly, the youngest of the trio and the mother of a boy (Eric D. Smith) who seems unable to speak. But Dolly is not the only member of the group in need of a miracle.

With her taut mouth and vigilant gaze, Linney is especially nuanced as Chrissie, the wounded but self-contained and observant interloper who returns from the United States after a 40-year rift. And amid the star power, O’Casey is something of a revelation as the upbeat but wavering Dolly.

The actor Stephen Rea does fine, grumbling work as Frank, Eileen’s unhelpful husband who must step in and care for their many highly amused children. Will he have an epiphany about home and hearth? The movie leaves little doubt about the answer. Indeed, the menfolk left behind, and their needs and demands, would provide the women reason enough for a sojourn.

Dispensing wisdom throughout, Father Dermot (Mark O’Halloran) persuades Chrissie to join the pilgrimage. Later, he’ll offer an impromptu homily on unmet expectations, one that is surprisingly apt for those hoping for a movie that transcends the pleasant. The filmmakers go for too-easy laughs; the movie doesn’t seem to trust its audience to sit with the pain, much less to find the achy humor in it, as a more assured film might. The actors here are good, but they are not miracle workers.

The Miracle Club
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and mildly salty language. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.

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