Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Family Fang


   I realize I run a semi-niche blog, and that most of my readers probably won't flock to a dramady like this, but I've realized lately that I've inadvertently saddled myself with the reputation of a guy who only watches genre flicks. Only horror. Only sci-fi. Only action. Those might be my favorite genres, but I don't discriminate. I love film, period. Experimental, comedy, drama, romance. All of it. And, the one name I've learned to pay attention to over the past couple years is Jason Bateman. He's been consistently fantastic in everything I've seen him in, and The Family Fang is no exception.

   From Arrested Development to Bad Words, Bateman has been impressing the hell out of me. In fact, speaking of Bad Words and The Family Fang, he pulled double duty on both- starring and directing in both movies. I preferred Bad Words because I lean more towards comedies instead of dramadies, but The Family Fang is still a very solid movie. Bateman and Nicole Kidman play Baxter and Annie Fang, respectively. The now-grown children of two dysfunctional performance artists. Childhood was no piece of cake for Baxter and Annie, missing out on the normalcy they'd later crave so badly, their lives were just one elaborate prank after another. And, often, these 'pranks' were in very bad taste.

   There is some humorous value here, but it's dark comedy. You're watching these kids get included in these traumatizing performance pieces as casually as if it was a day out at a local park. The kids seem to love it at first, but as the get older and the severity of the pranks increase the kids realize that they're little more than artistic implements in their parents' tool kit. The movie reveals their history in pieces, both flashbacks and faux-documentary clips alike, which becomes interestingly relevant later on in the movie. See, after Baxter gets injured while researching a nonsense article he's been hired to write, the folks show up to try and reunite with their kids one last time.

   One last time quite literally. When Annie and Baxter vehemently reject the notion of doing another 'performance piece' like old times, their parents say screw it and decide to fuck off on a vacation or something. Which would be fine... if the cops didn't find their car a couple days later, with tons of blood all over the inside. Foul play is expected, but Bax and Annie aren't so quick to buy it. After all, this wouldn't be the craziest thing their parents have ever done and called "art". Annie insists that once they're declared dead, they're going to reappear with some in-poor-taste "Gotcha!" Baxter is on the fence, but as Annie becomes obsessed with finding him, he decides to do the brotherly thing and help her out as much as he can.

   As their parents are more or less out of their lives now, the Fang sibilings are forced to re-evaluate their lives, and how much they've let their past affect it. Both are seemingly in creative and professional ruts, could this be the release they needed? The movie paints a complex portrait of this dysfunctional family and it's both fun and sad to explore their lives. For every bizarrely fond memory and experience the siblings have had, it's contrasted with a dark and unsettling counterpoint. This new drama is no different. The deeper they dig, and the more they discover about their past and their family, the more they discover about themselves as well.

   Kidman and Bateman steal the show, which is no small feat considering the caliber of the supporting cast- including but not limited to the likes of Christopher Walken as father Fang himself. I was impressed by all the performances. Over the top when necessary but never above being understated either. The Family Fang is much more of a drama than a dramady. It's comedic moments are there, but don't necessarily go hand in hand with the overall tone of the movie. I do recommend the flick nonetheless, but don't expect a comedy. It's a... unique, and entertaining drama that's more fun than I thought it'd be, but it's also a movie that made me angry, sad, and even a bit choked up. If this sounds like your bag, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
 

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