Family, which hits New York and Los Angeles theaters today, is simply awesome. Didn’t want to post a movie review but rather, here are five reasons why I loved the film. Taylor Schilling headlines the comedy, and check out my post on what makes Family an excellent film.
Plot Synopsis: Kate Stone (Taylor Schilling) is a senior vice president at a New Jersey hedge fund who, thanks to her brutally candid nature, has no friends. Her estranged brother (Eric Edelstein) calls her out of the blue with a request to babysit her niece Maddie (Bryn Vale). What starts off as one night ends up being a week of “family” bonding with Kate and Maddie. Kate McKinnon co-stars as Jill, an understandably concerned (yet nitpicky) neighbor, with Brian Tyree Henry (excellent in If Beale Street Could Talk) playing Maddie’s karate instructor/friend Pete.
Directed and penned by Laura Steinel (Red Oaks), Family packs a ton of memorable (and knowing) moments in a refreshingly short and sweet 83 minutes. My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Don’t let the brisk length fool you, there’s a lot to love about Family, as you’ll see below!!
1. Taylor Schilling And Bryn Vale Are The Perfect Duo
Family is filled with a solid ensemble, and whether it’s a cameo (thirtysomething’s Peter Horton as Kate’s dad) or an out of left field scene stealer (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido as Maddie’s pal Dennis), each person gets their moment to shine. That being said, the narrative’s heart and soul is Kate and Maddie’s growing relationship, and one could argue that Family is almost a two-hander.
The reason for the film feeling like a two person comedy lies in the organic chemistry between Schilling and Vale. The mutual affection between the two actresses feels absolutely real, bringing a deeper level of hilarity (and poignancy) to the comedy. Vale is a relative newcomer to the business, and her understated manner in playing Maddie serves as the perfect complement to Schilling’s often deadpan approach to Kate. This will never happen, but I would totally watch another Kate and Maddie adventure.
2. Some of the Comedy’s Best Bits Are Underplayed
Since Kate Stone is a social outsider who simply tells it like it is, one would assume the meat of Family’s funny moments would come from Schilling. Though she’s absolutely great in the film and has her standout sequences, my favorite bits came simply out of nowhere. Director/writer Laura Steinel has a knack of throwing a few one liners that feel like throwaways but end up being downright hilarious.
For example, a section of the movie takes place at an Insane Clown Posse concert (these events are called “The Gathering of the Juggalos”), and the funniest joke had nothing to do with the Juggalos. Steinel presents a seemingly predictable comedic situation and throws in a zinger that you never really anticipated. A gas station meeting of the minds concerning food is also a sequence I’ll continue to watch. Speaking of which . . .
3. ‘Family’ Has A Huge Rewatchability Factor
Last night I was actually scheduled to watch a screener of Little Woods, but decided to watch several scenes of Family over and over again. I’m not a usual rewatcher of movies, as there are only several pictures that I’ll consistently revisit (there are too many films out in the universe!). Still, Family is a film I’ll definitely purchase on Blu-ray (I really hope it comes out on Blu-ray!) and watch time and time again. More importantly, this is a gem I definitely want to introduce to fellow cinephiles and see if they share my love for Family.
So why the rewatchability factor? The likability of Kate and Maddie, coupled with jokes that I simply don’t think will ever get old, are the primary reasons. And yes, I really do need to get started on Little Woods!!
4. Insane Clown Posse And Juggalos!
My only real knowledge of Insane Clown Posse came from After Disaster, a podcast that’s hosted by my CinemAddicts partner Anderson Cowan, Mike Carano, and Tyler White. And before that, I basically lumped them into some rap/metal genre that I would never visit (just not my tastes).
Family could have used Insane Clown Posse and its Juggalo community for straight up laughs (because outsiders are always an easy target for jokes), but again it simply goes in an entirely opposite direction. We get a slight taste of the juggalos’ love for each other and ICP, and it’s actually a value added bonus to receive a little bit of education with one’s entertainment. I have no idea if I’ll ever become a fan of Insane Clown Posse, but I’ll definitely give their music a shot and do further research on what the Juggalos are all about.
Presenting a seemingly humorous situation and injecting it with humanity is a huge strength of Family, and this flick brings a ton of resonance without ever becoming saccharine or heavy handed.
5. The Writing Is Pretty Fantastic And So It The Music!
I’m going to bundle reason five with a couple of points. This goes back to reason #3, but I am currently listening to Family as I’m finishing this post, and I really love the screenplay’s mixture of quickfire banter and understated wit. Kate McKinnon as the concerned neighbor is obviously funny in the flick, but when she’s not the funniest part of the equation, then you either have a totally disappointing film or a diverse one (thankfully Family fits into the latter).
On the music tip, Steinel also makes beautiful use of Walter Martin’s “We’re All Young Together” and Juan Wauters’ “I’m All Wrong” and, of course, several tracks from Insane Clown Posse. The Martin track definitely fits the spirit of Family, and if you need a nice tune as to help further the selling point, here goes:
Family hits New York and Los Angeles today with a national rollout to follow. If you ever check out this film, I’d love to hear your reaction. So feel free to comment below or join our CinemAddicts Facebook Group (members get a chance to win a Blu-ray or DVD on a weekly basis).