1980s, deep recession America.
In a gritty small town, 15-year-old ALICE and her mother, DIANE, a larger-than-life former actress, cling to each other and the fantasy of a better life.
A tough new neighborhood, dire money troubles, unemployment, even Diane’s relentless depression will not defeat them. But is determination enough to see them through?
Coming Up Roses is a haunting coming-of-age story about a mother-daughter forced to choose between reality and fantasy, their love for each other and survival.
“How Much Can You Afford to Sacrifice for Those You Love?”
It’s 1985, in the depths of a recession. A single mother and former musical theater diva, DIANE WALTERS (Bernadette Peters) and her 15 year old daughter ALICE (Rachel Brosnahan) pack up their U-Haul, chasing the fantasy of a better life.
Although beaming with charisma, Diane has been locked for years in a cycle of depression. Her older daughter CHERIE (Shannon Esper) had managed to keep Diane somewhat emotionally and financially intact, but now she wants out. And Diane is panicked.
Alice and Diane crash land into blue-collar Nashua, N.H. and Cherie’s wedding day, eager to be part of Cherie’s new life. But they find themselves unwanted.
Unlike her sister, Alice deeply connects with Diane’s vibrant imagination and sense of drama. Now with Cherie’s rejection, Alice bravely vows to take over the role of keeping Diane and the household afloat.
But the task is far from easy. Diane is struggling with a new cycle of depression and their mounting debts have followed them to Nashua, where unemployment is high and drug dealers and pawnshop owners define economic opportunity. Alice is scared.
CAT (Reyna De Courcy), a magnetic opportunist and classmate, becomes an unexpected ally in Alice’s new world. Desperate for money to implement her strategic escape from small town life, Cat hatches a plan to make use of Alice’s assets: inventiveness and innocence. Cat A tough new neighborhood, dire money troubles, unemployment, even Diane’s relentless depression will not defeat them. But is determination enough to see them through? Coming Up Roses is a haunting coming-of-age story about a mother-daughter forced to choose between reality and fantasy, their love for each other and survival. offers Alice a “job” working together to pull in some fast cash. But will Alice agree to Cat’s questionably legal plan?
She may not have a choice, as Alice soon learns. Diane gets fired, losing yet another job. Her depression is back in full force. And the landlord has initiated an eviction, sending CHARLES AIELLO (Peter Friedman), the collection agent, to Diane’s doorstep with the notice.
A lonely divorcee, pining for his estranged family, Charles’ world is turned upside down when he meets the eccentric and fiery Diane ---and Alice, the daughter he longs for.
Alice realizes with the combination of Diane’s erratic behavior, the mounting bills and the new threat of a possible eviction, drastic action is required. Alice agrees to try Cat’s plan and in a desperate moment even approaches Jimmy (Jayce Bartok), the local drug dealer, for employment ideas. Diane, with ideas of her own, begins to cultivate a “friendship” in Charles. Pinning her hopes on his ability to fill the father/ provider void for both she and Alice.
As Alice gets deeper into the world of petty crime and fantasies of escape, Diane throws herself into the impossible fantasy of Charles as the “answer.”
These parallel worlds explode. And Alice is forced to see that Diane’s choices are toxic and her need, insatiable. Alice is left alone with a most harrowing decision.
Coming Up Roses asks a question we all face --- how much can you afford to sacrifice for those you love?
Coming Up Roses is based on a true story, a moment in my young life that illuminates the power of resilience. This story, a mother-daughter survival story, was inspired in great part by vivid memories of my mother’s challenges with single motherhood, unemployment and clinical depression. In an effort to keep our household afloat, we were forced to take risks and make difficult decisions. It was a time of great inventiveness and determination, and we used our elaborate fantasies of a better life to stay inspired and to keep moving forward.
On a technical note, rather than utilizing quick cuts and a frenetic camera to highlight the dramatic tension, Coming Up Roses’ composed visual style relies more on the actors’ performance. The audience is pushed to enter the lives of the characters and to stay with them intimately, uninterrupted. The extreme choices of color, in costume and set design, also play a key role by creating the feeling of a world swaying between reality and fantasy.
Bernadette Peters, one of our generation’s greatest actresses, fearlessly plays the mother, Diane, radiant in her theatricality and devastating in her fragility. Rachel Brosnahan, in her first feature film, stuns as Diane’s teenage daughter, Alice. Her rich performance reveals the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence, the fierce battle for a sense of independence and self-discovery. And Peter Friedman gives a brilliant humanity to Charles, Diane’s love interest, at once the family’s savior and predator.
The film is set in deep recession, small town America. And I’ve been fortunate to see how the film touches people, people struggling in today’s frayed and unstable economic landscape. These audiences deeply relate to the difficult choices life forces on them and I can only hope the film encourages them to share their own stories of struggle, resilience and healing.
Coming Up Roses