There are some actors who don’t have to try very hard to convince you that whatever they say is the truth and the things they do are not out of character. Al Pacino, for instance, could tell me that he really is the Devil and I wouldn’t contest it. A combination of skills and delivery style in conjunction with the actor’s own charisma is responsible for my inclination to believe they are whoever they claim to be. Steve Buscemi is another example of an actor with this ability. Regardless of whether he is playing Carl Showalter, Seymour, or Mr. Pink, one never doubts that he is a petty thief, a record collector, or a career criminal. In Jonathan Wacks’s film “Ed and His Dead Mother,” Buscemi plays a mama’s boy and we totally buy it.
A year after the death of his mother Mabel (Miriam Margoyles), Ed Chilton (Buscemi) is still grieving. His Uncle Benny (Ned Beatty) advises Ed to move on with his life, but such an endeavor is easier said than done. When a mysterious business man named AJ Patty (John Glover) offers Ed a deal that would re-animate Mother, Ed enthusiastically agrees. She indeed returns, but she isn’t the same person. For instance, the first morning that she’s “rejoined” the human species, she spends her time in the refrigerator. Ed is naturally concerned. AJ explains to him that he didn’t bring Mother back to life. Instead, he brought her back from the dead. Ed’s mother isn’t alive—she’s reanimated. She can move around and make decisions, but a diet of cockroaches is necessary to sustain her mobility. Bit by bit, she displays increasingly odd behavior (mostly killing living things). When she threatens to eradicate Ed’s love interest (Dawn Hudson) from across the street, Uncle Benny demands that Ed do something about the situation.
Buscemi doesn’t always alter the timbre of his voice or even his body language unless the role demands a complete transformation. Yet, he slides into his characters and makes it look effortless. Though I might not picture Buscemi wearing overalls and a red t-shirt on my own, he dons this very outfit at the end of the film and he doesn’t appear uncomfortable or incorrectly robed. He isn’t the only actor who is at home in his role. Ned Beatty and John Glover perform nicely as two individuals trying to influence Ed to the best of their abilities. With a strong cast and a “timeless” set design—half 1950s, half 1990s—“Ed and His Dead Mother” is an eccentric gem.
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