The experience of watching Like Sunday, Like Rain is akin to exhaling slowly for nearly an hour and forty-five minutes–the type of minor melancholy emission that lacks any real conviction or effort and disappears, having left no imprint. Reggie (Julian Shatkin) is a 12-year old boy who learned to read at 18 months and is prodigious on many fronts; he expresses voracious literary appetites (tackling both The Grapes of Wrath and Groucho Marx’s biography) and an emphatic display of early adolescent aptitude in math and music. He lives in a NYC mansion with his mother, Barbara (Debra Messing), who embodies every cliché of a barely-there, uber-wealthy parent who hires professionals as stand-ins for their own lack of caregiving. Barbara is going away for the summer and, following what seems to be the most cursory interview in nanny history, offers the seasonal gig to struggling musician Eleanor (Leighton Meester).
Eleanor, having recently broken up with her scumbag musician boyfriend Dennis (Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong in a thankless cameo) and left without a job and home, accepts the position and moves into the massive house. Eleanor and Reggie quickly form a connection not unlike the one made by Dakota Fanning and Brittany Murphy in the very similarly themed Uptown Girls. Despite the hackneyed dynamic, there is still an inherent sort of loveliness to the two-shots of Reggie and Eleanor reading side-by-side or slowly opening up to each other. Reggie’s intellect and ostensible maturity are still upended every so often by the way he drags out the “L”s in his words; his speech appears to be the last vestige of childlike inflection. He so thoroughly craves love and Eleanor, who is struggling with her own personal turmoil, is quite open to and supportive of him.
However, as Reggie’s friend often notes, Eleanor is “seriously hot,” which lends an undercurrent of hot nanny-pubescent boy coming-of-age implications. And although Reggie shrugs that off at first, it’s unlikely that an almost-adolescent boy isn’t going to develop a pretty serious crush on her. Despite the glib mentions, it’s writer-director Frank Whaley’s great loss to not have at least scratched deeper beneath the surface of this taboo-ish area. The tepid tone of the film, and its limpid dramatic structure, suffocates any psychological acumen. Whaley instead opts for line-toeing that allows only a bubble or two to break the surface (Eleanor innocently touches Reggie’s hand as they lie side-by-side at the park) but never allows for a full boil.
Given the film’s locale—a mansion and, by extension, NYC as a whole—it’s a shame that cinematographer Jimi Jones’ camera couldn’t rest on more interesting spaces than the dining room table or the grass at the park. Similar to Like Sunday, Like Rain’s unambitious and stale exploration of relationships, there’s little imagination afforded to the construction and articulation of the world around these characters.
As the film reaches its denouement, Reggie and Eleanor are forced apart from one another. Through editing, the audience witnesses them playing the same song on their respective instruments in their separate homes. It suggests that even though someone’s physical presence in our life may be fleeting, there is a remaining connection–a residue–left by those who truly meant something. If only Whaley committed to this idea cinematically, and possessed any singularity of vision, perhaps this rote film would have had a similarly lasting effect.
1.5 stars out of 4