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Review: Julia Louis-Dreyfus needs to take the week off as her new fantasy-drama Tuesday falters

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Tuesday

Written and directed by Daina O. Pusic

Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lola Petticrew and Arinze Kene

Classification N/A; 111 minutes

Opens in select theatres June 14

Of the four major Seinfeld alums, there is no question that Julia Louis-Dreyfus has bested her NBC brethren, from her outstanding work on HBO’s Veep to her ace feature-film collaborations with Nicole Holofcener (You Hurt My Feelings, Enough Said) and Kenya Barris (You People). But as old pal Jerry might say, what’s the deal with her new film Tuesday?

A tonally uneasy concoction that will have even the most adventurous moviegoer itching away at their fight-or-flight instincts, the shot-way-back-in-2021 fantasy-drama offers an impossible challenge for its star: Can even the most talented performer anchor a film that feels untethered to itself?

The feature-film debut from Croatian director Daina O. Pusic, Tuesday follows the damaged relationship between mother Zora (Louis-Dreyfuss) and her teenage daughter Tuesday (Lola Petticrew), the latter of whom is terminally ill and spending her remaining days holed up inside the family’s London flat. With only a put-upon nurse (Leah Harvey) for company, Zora and Tuesday lead a quiet life that flits between resignation, resentment and denial. That is until one day, when Death itself (in the form of a macaw voiced by Arinze Kene) flies into the home, taking mother and daughter on a journey that is designed to be profound but lands instead somewhere between absurd and saccharine.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Zora in Croatian director Daina O. Pusic’s feature-film debut, Tuesday.Photo Credit: Kevin Baker/Courtesy of A24

Presented with enough resources to render its Grim Reaper bird with impressive CGI detail – with the film given the art-house imprimatur of prestige film distributor A24 – Pusic certainly possesses the goods when it comes to designing world and mood. There is one mid-film scene in which Zora, enlarged to Godzilla-like proportions, roams across a London that’s been plunged into chaos – a sequence that requires some dramatic untangling too knotty to explain here – that is haunting and bold in its surreal beauty. Yet so much of its script is frustratingly trite, its perspective on grief never rising above grade-school emotions, with thin characters forced to carry its surface-level themes.

Even Louis-Dreyfuss cannot manage to figure out just what to do with the story, instead resorting to putting on her best sour face to convey dissatisfaction with either the cards life has dealt Zora, or perhaps the dialogue that the actress has been compelled to spout. Petticrew, too, gives the material her best shot, though ultimately Tuesday the character succumbs to a fate similar to Tuesday the film: there can be no light at the end of the tunnel when the designer of said tunnel is squinting through the narrative and emotional dark. Only Kene, who gets the best lines as the exhausted and cynical Death, glides in and out of Tuesday with wry grace.

Not to borrow another Seinfeld line, but the experience of watching Tuesday mostly conjures one immortal Elaine Benes line: Get out!

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