The Family Fang(2016)
- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama
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Jason Bateman proved that he's a capable director with ‘Bad Words’, his directorial debut. His second efforts isn't as successful.
‘The Family Fang’ seems to start in comic territory, before venturing into a dysfunctional family drama, and by the end of it, you wonder where all the laughs went.
Bateman and Nicole Kidman play unlikely siblings Baxter and Annie, the children of avant-garde artistic couple Caleb (Christopher Walken) and Camille (Maryann Plunkett) Fang. As children Caleb and Camille staged performance art pieces in full view of the public, often involving Baxter and Annie in them. I guess going to the movies was just too normal for them.
Little wonder now that Baxter and Annie are grown up, their lives are a mess. After Baxter gets injured during a freelance writing assignment (which also produces the movie's only real laugh), he is picked up by his parents, and Annie pulls away herself from work to help her brother. To bond the family together, Caleb plans another art piece, but the two children don't want a part in it and the whole piece falters. Frustrated, Caleb and Camille decide to take a trip, and mysteriously disappear. Their children suspect it's just another attempt at an art piece as they try to find out the reasons for the disappearance.
There's plenty of discussion about art and what it can do in this examination of a dysfunctional family, but it all feels shallow. The Fang's performance art pieces are cringe-worthy; semi family bonding events that aren't particularly thought provoking. There's a bank robbery of lollipops and a beauty pageant where the young Baxter enters as a girl, but nothing particularly radical.
The family dynamics are also never convincing, though it might reflect how dysfunctional the family is. As for the plot twist, it all just seems there's a long con going on, when the Fang parents go missing. Is it another trick?
The movie's saving grace are the performances, but there's little chemistry between the actors as they try to carve out the world that their two-dimensional characters is in. Kidman never really has to try too hard in the role of Annie Fang, and there's just too much controversy about her character going topless during a movie. How is that a big deal in the age of sex tapes and public meltdowns? Bateman keeps his usual melancholic face throughout, but is mostly unreadable as a depressed novelist with a bad case of writer's block.
Christopher Walken tries his best to imbibe Caleb with life, but he just comes across as an eccentric old man stubbornly trying to bond with his children. Maryann Plunkett is unfortunately lost in the mess and histrionics, particularly in the second half of the movie.
‘The Family Fang’, adapted from a 2011 comic novel, is never really convincing and suffers from a lack of direction. Bateman isn't quite sure what he wants the movie to be; is it an examination of art or a depiction of a dysfunctional family? It fails at both, and lacks enough bite to be memorable.
'The Family Fang' opens 12 May 2016