Tales of women trying to kick booze and dope have always made for great melodrama: Think Susan Hayward in I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls (1967). Based on a true story but cluttered with Lifetime and indiewood clichs, Sherrybaby, the latest addition to the genre, serves primarily to let the ubiquitous Maggie Gyllenhaal (this is her fourth vehicle in two months) slouch, strip and offer to suck off job supervisors.
In this showboaty parade of abjection, Sherry, freshly sprung from the pokey, checks in at a home for wayward women, drops by 12-step meetings and desperately tries to reingratiate herself with her daughter, now in the care of Sherry’s brother (Henke) and his wife in the Jersey suburbs. Ludicrous dialogue (“Some girls in there tried to get with me, but I told them what time it was,” Sherry boasts to her curious sister-in-law about her life behind bars) and a shameless fourth-act explanation for our heroine’s predilection for horse and whoring only add to Collyer’s cynical slumming. Those seeking a far more satisfying portrayal of the needle and the damage done are advised to check out another Maggie: Cheung, in Olivier Assayas’s Clean. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Melissa Anderson