Marvin's Room

February 8, 1997 0 By Fans
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Still of Robert De Niro in Marvin's RoomStill of Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Marvin's RoomStill of Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks in Marvin's RoomStill of Leonardo DiCaprio and Diane Keaton in Marvin's RoomStill of Meryl Streep in Marvin's Room


A leukemia patient attempts to end a 20-year feud with her sister to get her bone marrow.

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 6.6/10 (11,607 voted)

Critic's Score: 68/100

Jerry Zaks

Stars: Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton

Estranged since their father's first stroke some 17 years earlier, Lee and Bessie lead separate lives in separate states. Lee's son, Hank, finds himself committed to a mental institution after setting fire to his mother's house. His younger brother, Charlie, seems unfazed by his brother's eccentricities or his mother's seeming disinterest. When Lee comes to the asylum to spring Hank for a week in Florida so that he can be tested as a possible bone marrow donor for Bessie, Hank is incredulous. "I didn't even know you had a sister," he says. "Remember, every Christmas, when I used to say 'Well, looks like Aunt Bessie didn't send us a card again this year?'" "Oh yeah," Hank says. Meanwhile, Marvin, the two women's bedridden father, has "been dying for the past twenty years." "He's doing it real slow so I don't miss anything," Bessie tells Dr…

Writers: Scott McPherson, Scott McPherson


Meryl Streep


Leonardo DiCaprio


Diane Keaton


Robert De Niro

Dr. Wally

Hume Cronyn


Gwen Verdon


Hal Scardino


Dan Hedaya


Margo Martindale

Dr. Charlotte

Cynthia Nixon

Retirement Home Director

Kelly Ripa


John Callahan


Olga Merediz

Beauty Shop Lady

Joe Lisi


Steve DuMouchel

Gas Station Guy

(as Steve Dumouchel)

A story about the years that keep us apart… And the moments that bring us together.

Release Date: 8 February 1997

Filming Locations: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $23,000,000


Opening Weekend: $57,739
(22 December 1996)
(6 Screens)

Gross: $12,782,508
(20 April 1997)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Hume Cronyn's final appearance in a theatrical film.


As Meryl Streep's character is packing her suitcase in a hurry, she grabs an article of clothing off the wall and the clock can be seen falling. In the next scene she is grabbing another article of clothing off the wall and the clock is back in place.


Dr. Wally:
Okay, Augustina… Is it okay if I call you Augustina?

Well, my name is Bessie.

User Review

Beyond the conventions of the tear-jerker


This film took this jaded, tough-to-manipulate moviegoer and reduced him to
a blubbering mass of water. Instead of the usual over-the-top death scene,
the film finds a clever, non-contrived way to end by leaving these characters
at a magical moment of mutual understanding. It is one of the most powerful
endings I've ever seen in a film, and believe me, I've seen thousands. What
I found most remarkable about it was how the film reveals–despite the
sisters' major character differences–how similar they really are. Both
abandon one part of their family to sacrifice for another part–they each
merely take different parts, and that's why Lee's character is not as bad,
selfish or one-dimensional as she first seems. Lee's problem was
understanding love. Despite all her lovers, Lee (Streep) had to learn the
real meaning of love from her spinster sister Bessie (Keaton).

The film is full of irony. One such moment is when Lee, rather tactlessly,
says to Bessie that she finally feels as though her life has begun. To which
Bessie, who is surely about to die, can only sigh. The greatest irony, of
course, is that Lee finds herself at the same juncture she was 20 years
prior. Will she choose to sacrifice to care for her sister, just as her
sister had chosen to do with her father and aunt? Bessie, in contrast, had
come to find that she hadn't "thrown it all away" to care for sick
relatives. What first seemed a sacrifice had become transformed, through her
own experience, into another valid way of experiencing life. To Lee's
perspective, the elders where millstones, hindrances, inconveniences robbed
of their humanity–almost the antithesis of life. Yet, behind the
eccentricities of Aunt Ruth (Verdon) and other-worldly silence of her
chronically ill father Marvin (Cronyn), she had found, and reveled in, their
uniquness, their humanness.
Making Lee's two sons very different also added complexity and depth to the
film. It's obvious that Hank (DiCaprio) is his mother's son, it's just that
his mother doesn't realize it. Hank too is at a crucial moment of choice:
Will he abandon his selfishness, or will he abandon his familial and moral
obligation to help Bessie? And what accounts for the polar opposite behavior
of the younger son Charlie (Scardino)? The movie doesn't give an answer.
Genetics, environment, relationships and all the other things that make us
who we are are complex things. The scriptwriter is smart enough to realize
Touches of humor keep this from becoming an oppressive Bergmanesque
angst-fest, and its patient character development steers it out of obvious
soapy (ie. "Terms of Endearment") territory.
Although the thing has a sort of TV-movie aesthetic in the staging and the
scoring, the writing and acting are everything you'd want.