Marvin's Room (film)

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Marvin's Room
Marvins room poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byJerry Zaks
Produced byScott Rudin
Jane Rosenthal
Robert De Niro
Screenplay byScott McPherson
Based onMarvin's Room
by Scott McPherson
Music byRachel Portman
CinematographyPiotr Sobociński
Edited byJim Clark
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • December 18, 1996 (1996-12-18)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[1]
Box office$12.8 million[1]

Marvin's Room is a 1996 American drama film directed by Jerry Zaks. The script was written by John Guare and based on the play of the same name by Scott McPherson, who died in 1992. McPherson had completed a screenplay for a film version before he died; however Guare was hired to update it when the film eventually started production years later.[2][3]

It stars Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Hume Cronyn, Gwen Verdon, Hal Scardino and Dan Hedaya. Original music for the film was composed by Rachel Portman. Carly Simon wrote and performed the theme song "Two Little Sisters", with Meryl Streep adding background vocals.


Marvin (Hume Cronyn), a man who had a stroke 20 years ago, is left incapacitated and bed-ridden. He has been cared for by his daughter Bessie (Diane Keaton) in their Florida home, and totally ignored by his other daughter, Lee (Meryl Streep), who moved to Ohio with her husband 20 years ago and has never contacted her family.

Now, however, Bessie's doctor has informed her that she has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant[4] and she turns to her sister for help. Lee, in turn, turns to her son Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has been committed to a mental institution for setting fire to his mother's house, but he is unfortunately sedated.

Nevertheless they both travel down to stay with Bessie. When Lee finds that she may have to take over her father's care, she at first begins shopping around for nursing homes. Eventually, however, the estranged family grows close.[5][6] As Bessie progressively seems to get worse, Lee comes to terms that it is now her turn to take care of her family. The film closes on Lee familiarizing herself with her father's medication, as she walks into his room with his lunch, overlooking Bessie flashing the mirror that makes Marvin smile.



The film holds an 84% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews and an average rating of 6.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Marvin's Room rises above the pack of dysfunctional family dramas thanks to an impeccable cast that includes Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, and Leonardo DiCaprio."[7] Metacritic gave the film a score of 68 out of 100 based on 20 critical reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]




Further reading[edit]

  • Marvin's Room Screen Adaptation: A Scriptwriting Handbook, by Kenneth Portnoy. Published by Focal Press, 1998. ISBN 0-240-80349-3.
  • McPherson, Scott (1992). Marvin's Room (First ed.). New York: Plume drama. ISBN 0-452-26922-9.
  • Grace in Suffering: Marvin's Room Praying the Movies: Daily Meditations from Classic Films, by Edward McNulty, McNulty. Geneva Press, 2001. ISBN 0-664-50155-9.


  1. ^ a b "Marvin's Room (1996)". The Numbers. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ Marks, Peter (December 8, 1996). "Two Wrenching Dramas Find Unexpected New Lives". The New York Times.
  3. ^ A Door Left Opened accessed 11/23/2016
  4. ^ Johnson, Gary. "Marvin's Room Explores the Ties That Bind".
  5. ^ "Marvin's Room (1996) Overview". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Howe, Desson (January 10, 1997). "'Marvin's Room': No Emote Control". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "Marvin's Room (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Marvin's Room Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "20th Moscow International Film Festival (1997)". MIFF. Archived from the original on March 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-22.

External links[edit]