Ritual
Now and then. Leon Becker (Williams) - successful '90s lawyer, radical '60s student.
dir-scr Stanley Bennett Clay
with Clarence Williams III, Denise Nicholas, Shawn Michael Howard, Angelle Brooks, Gerrie Ellis
release US 13.Jul.00; UK Apr.01 llgff
00/US 1h18
1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
London L&G Film Fest This is such a pedestrian family drama that it's unlikely it would ever see the big screen if it weren't for gay and lesbian film festivals. The Beckers are "a special family" apparently, or so says Dad (Williams) when all four Beckers are gathered around the dinner table in their multi-million dollar palace atop a Malibu hillside. Becker is a top lawyer (obviously, look at that house!), while his wife (Nicholas) is a Broadway star who gave up her career and moved to L.A. to support him (cue the gurgling bitterness). Meanwhile, grown-but-still-at-home daughter Teresa (Brooks) is a manipulative brat. So good son Mason (Howard)--who's both brilliant and gay, or so we're told--comes home from university to "save the family" ... a heroic action that may involve a gun (and he's supposed to be the genius?).

While it's nice to see an upper class black family on the screen, there's nothing insightful at all in this film. It's trying so desperately to show the rot beneath the perfect family sheen that any shred of authenticity is jettisoned for another scene of screaming nastiness. The various subplots are contrived and preachy--no one even tries to be nice, except in the odd moment of artificial levity. With its issue-based approach, obvious script and sunny direction, it feels just like a bad TV movie, complete with the requisite veteran star (best bit: a pic of Dad as a young law student comes from The Mod Squad, complete with Linc's round shades and enormous afro!). It also tries to be daring, with a very creepy uncharacteristic brother-sister scene that exists only to shock us, not to really say anything. There are some good themes here that are worth exploring, but this is not the film to do it.
strong themes and situations, language 10.Apr.01 llgff

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