Ah ha! So this is the movie that had the balls to get released in the same weekend as AVENGERS: ENDGAME. I knew there was at least one. Ha ha, sucker!
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Taylor Schilling (THE PUBLIC , and the upcoming PHIL ), Bryn Vale (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Allison Tolman (SISTERS BROS. , HOUSE , GIFT , and the upcoming SPEED OF LIFE ), and Eric Edelstein (FLOWER , GREEN ROOM , JURASSIC WORLD , and the upcoming LIFE SUPPORT ).
In support, we have Brian Tyree Henry (SPIDER-VERSE , CROWN HEIGHTS , and upcoming films CHILD’S PLAY  and JOKER ), Kate McKinnon (SPY/DUMPED , FERDINAND , OFFICE PARTY , SISTERS , and the upcoming YESTERDAY ), Matt Walsh (WIDOWS , BRIGSBY BEAR , and THE JONESES ), Jessie Ennis (LIFE/PARTY  and DISASTER ARTIST ), and Fabrizio Zacharee Guido (WORLD WAR Z ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Laura Steinel, making her directorial debut. Composing the score is Jeremy Turner, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Michael Simmonds, known for HALLOWEEN (2018) and NERVE (2016). Finally, the editor is Glenn Garland, known for THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005), and the upcoming 3 FROM HELL (2019).
Already saw the flick, so let’s get to it.
This is my honest opinion of: FAMILY
Kate (Taylor Schilling) is a single, career-driven woman who isn’t the best at socializing with other people, and doesn’t keep close contact with her family. That changes when her brother (Eric Edelstein) calls her and asks if she can look after his teenage daughter Maddie (Bryn Vale) while he and his wife (Allison Tolman) take care of her dying mother. Despite her vehement rejection, she accepts and discovers that Maddie is just as socially awkward. Though they’re not sure what to make of each other at first, the two form an unorthodox bond, keeping each other’s secrets and letting certain rules slide.
Ball-busting jokes aside, this movie got had zero marketing behind it. I didn’t even know this movie existed. Never got a trailer. I was looking through the library of an out-of-the-way theater I sometimes go to just out of curiosity to see who had the balls to release alongside the blockbuster. The ones near me were only playing ENDGAME, in terms of new releases, and then I saw this.
I wager it’s going to bomb, but I have to say… that’s a bit of a shame, as the movie isn’t half bad. Okay, it’s no modern classic and it’s a movie that’s certainly been done to death, but as far as a movie like that is concerned, it’s pretty good.
You know what this movie is? It’s the “workaholic learns a lesson” story. Following similar patterns from other such films, like, JINGLE ALL THE WAY (1996), LIAR LIAR (1997), and HAUNTED MANSION (2003). It’s pretty by the numbers and predictable in that sense. But as I said, what separates this from movies like those (minus LIAR LIAR) is the genuinely good humor. The lines that Schilling has are really biting and Kate is brutally, refreshingly honest about her feelings and intentions. She really doesn’t want to take of Maddie and really doesn’t give a shit about what the young lady eats. Basically, if she doesn’t want to do something, she’ll be pretty blunt about it. When Sensei Pete (Brian Tyree Henry) asks Kate to sign some paperwork, she just says, “Yeah, I don’t want to,” with a deadpan delivery that I can’t help but crack up to. I think some of my favorite reactions are when she interacts with her neighbor Jill (Kate McKinnon), who constantly tells Kate to fix her brother’s garage door which doesn’t close, but Kate barely ever cares, or makes zero effort in actually fixing the thing
The movie even surprises me in some ways. Take Dennis “Little Joker” (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido) for example. This kid, for all intents and purposes, should be one of the lower points of the movie. He talks like a gangster, he glorifies being a juggalo (fans of the hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, for those not in the know), but he’s actually not. While nothing that he says is particularly funny, there is a certain charm in his character that shows that he is actually a good kid who means well. He may be a little weirdo, and even a little gross at times, but he’s nice.
I especially enjoy the way that Maddie was written. Yes, she’s shy and rejects what would be considered “girly” and “normal.” She hates doing ballet and doesn’t like dresses, so she prefers to do karate and prefers to wear pants-suits. She stays in her room and turns long sticks and branches into fantasy-world weapons, like staves and swords, decorating them with glitter and such things. But with all that, she’s just a quiet kid who doesn’t know how to talk to people. For all intents she’s written to be normal, just a little awkward and I really like that.
Even some of the camera work really adds to the comedy, kind of reminding me of cartoons. Specifically, I’m referring to when the camera pans right or left. There’s a bit where Kate is sleeping on the couch, waking up realizing that she’s late in taking Maddie to school, screaming to get ready, but then the camera pans right and she’s just standing there, ready to go, eating a bowl of cereal. There’s a couple moments like that made me laugh pretty hard. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a comedy do this outside of animation. Hell, the last time I saw this stand out in any way was SHUTTER ISLAND (2010), except that didn’t feel like a positive camera job.
However, you don’t have a movie like this without having a fair amount of problems.
Whereas Little Joker is one of the surprisingly charming aspects of the film, McKinnon retains her position as one of the lesser parts of any movie that she’s in. I know, SNL, she’s really funny (so people tell me), and probably a really nice and chill person, but none of that ever translates into the movies that she’s in. She’s just not funny to me. This is by no means her worst movie, but it’s not anything that stands out either. I want to like her acting, I really do, but I feel like she’s always miscast.
Some legalities and logic does seem to escape the movie as well. Maddie is always dropped off by her parents for ballet, but she always skips out to go to the karate dojo next door. One would think that if the ballet lessons were constantly being paid for, but the student in question doesn’t show up, wouldn’t the parents be notified in some way? I don’t know, something about that set-up doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.
Overall, definitely not a new movie and not one that’ll slay in the comedy department, but it’s got merit. The comedy is mostly pretty good, even great at times, the characters are written really well, and is ultimately a sweet little flick. As a recommendation, I say this is worth checking out. Maybe there’s not a need to rush out to see it, but I doubt it’s going to stay in theaters very long. I’d say no more than a couple of weeks. If you miss it in theaters, then definitely check it out as a rental.
My honest rating for FAMILY: 4/5
This week’s reviews:
- AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Next week’s reviews:
- LONG SHOT
- THE INTRUDER