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|The Perfect Family|
dir Anne Renton
scr Paula Goldberg, Claire V Riley
prd Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson
with Kathleen Turner, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Michael McGrady, Angelique Cabral, Richard Chamberlain, Elizabeth Pena, Kristen Dalton, Gregory Zaragoza, Sharon Lawrence, Scott Michael Campbell, Rebecca Wackler
release UK Mar.12 llgff, US 4.May.12
The family that prays together: Turner, Deschanel, Ritter and McGrady
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This engaging comedy-drama astutely observes a woman struggling to balance her religious beliefs with real life. While the film gets increasingly serious as it goes, it holds our interest - and our emotions - while making several very important points.
Eileen (Turner) is such a loyal parishioner that one of the top contenders for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year award. But she can't cope with how this sits at odds with the messy reality: her husband (McGrady) is an ex-alcoholic, her son (Ritter) has left his wife for another woman (Dalton), and her daughter (Deschanel) is having a baby with her girlfriend (Cabral) as they plan their marriage. Consumed by guilt, Eileen pushes everyone away from her. But how long can she hide?
The terrific cast is held together by Turner's brittle performance, which combines broad comedy with a much deeper exploration of the internal conflict between organised religion and true Christian compassion. Each of the actors is raw and natural, almost offhanded in the way they knowingly defy her idea of perfection. So watching them bristle under her pressure is almost frighteningly realistic, as are the warm moments along the way that remind us of the strong relationships beneath the surface issues.
Along the way, these characters cycle around each other with all kinds of authentic rhythms. Even though the film's first half is breezy and sometimes silly, it never plays by simplistic dramatic rules. These people love, respect and are infuriated by each other all at the same time. And even if it's not clear to Eileen until the very end, the family is pretty perfect as is.
Goldberg and Riley's script is a wonderful collection of hilarious interaction and hard truths, clearly coming from a knowing persecutive that will resonate with anyone who has encountered the sharp edge of religious judgementalism. Casting Champerlain as the parish priest is a stroke of genius, and he plays the role without a single knowing wink. But the point is made that life is simply far too complex to fit into anyone's black-and-white religious worldview.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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