Diminished Capacity

Director: Terry Kinney
Screenwriters: Terry Kinney

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


After a concussion leaves him unfocused, short on short-term memory, and demoted from the political pages to the comics, Cooper (Matthew Broderick), a Chicago newspaper editor, travels home to Missouri to visit his aging Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda). On the verge of losing his home and exhibiting signs of senility, Rollie spends his time stubbornly refusing to pay bills, compulsively drying socks, and sitting by the lake editing “fish poetry” (think typewriter keys tied to baited fishing lines). But when he shows Cooper a near-mint-condition Frank “Wildfire” Schulte baseball card, the two muddled men—along with Cooper’s high school sweetheart, Charlotte ( Virginia Madsen)—drive back to Chicago hoping to sell the antique card at a memorabilia convention.

Director Terry Kinney and screenwriter Sherwood Kiraly (who also wrote the novel) have concocted a delightful, bittersweet comedy about people coming together and memory falling apart. Full of wit and observant character humor, Diminished Capacity is cleverly set in the world of baseball cards and commercialized nostalgia that allows us to explore the value of our memories (which may not be what’s quoted in the price list) and who we are without them.

It’s with a hint of melancholy that we accept that our memories are fleeting, or as Rollie’s fish point out in one of their more-accessible poems, “Time is the guest of the north.” They may be on to something.

— John Nein

Screening Details

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