A Family Man
dir Mark Williams
scr Bill Dubuque
prd Nicolas Chartier, Craig J Flores, Mark Williams, Alan Siegel, Gerard Butler, Patrick Newall
with Gerard Butler, Gretchen Mol, Alison Brie, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Maxwell Jenkins, Anupam Kher, Dustin Milligan, Julia Butters, Mimi Kuzyk, Dwain Murphy, Kathleen Munroe
release UK 5.Jun.17, US 28.Jul.17
16/Canada Voltage 1h48
A Family Man
Some father-son time: Butler and Jenkins

mol brie dafoe
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Family Man Slick and insistent, this relentlessly cheesy drama doesn't allow for much ambiguity, as its moral questions are all very clearly delineated. It's that old chestnut about a job-obsessed man who discovers the true importance of family. In the lead role, Gerard Butler is watchable if not terribly subtle. So while it's never challenging, it at least gently prowls around an important issue.

A natural fast talker, Dane (Butler) is a high-powered headhunter at a Chicago recruitment agency, living in the suburbs with his wife Elise (Mol) and four kids. His boss Ed (Dafoe) is only interested in making money, so he and his colleagues (Brie and Milligan) set out to break records by getting their clients hired. Although qualified candidate Lou (Molina), seems like one challenge too far. Then their eldest son (Jenkins) is diagnosed with leukaemia, and Dane begins to re-evaluate his priorities, taking time off and letting his work slip.

Dubuque's script may be on-the-nose, but it has some sharp moments scattered all the way through the story. It does drag on a bit, hammering the message home over and over again, but it's nice to see a film that dares to challenge the consensus that bigger and better is always best. The shady business Dane gets up to is more than a little murky and uninteresting, as he sabotages competing candidates to help his own. And some of his blind spots are rather contrived, stretching the inevitable catharsis to the breaking point.

Yes, it's a fairly demanding role for Butler, seeking a sympathetic balance between workaholic executive and loving dad. The unlikeable elements seem to come more naturally, but this makes it rather difficult for the audience to engage with the film personally. Even though Butler digs deep, we end up watching rather than feeling the emotions that are swirling around Dane. Mol has the more openly resonant role in this sense, and newcomer Jenkins is impressive.

Director Williams gives the film that glossy Hollywood sheen, complete with a typically sudsy Mark Isham score that's unashamed to dive straight into the story's most sentimental corners. The trajectory of the various plot strands are never in doubt, from corporate sharks to strained marriage to the dying child. But there are strong scenes between the corny ones, and some brief flashes of humour and honesty that almost keep it from being forgettable.

cert 15 themes, language 23.Jul..17

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