BY LAUREN NISBET
With comedic dramas, good casting is half the battle. In other words, The Family made it halfway to being a worthwhile movie-going experience.
Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer were absolutely perfect for their roles–they captured the personalities with humour and heart, creating genuine relationships and characters you want to root for. The two younger stars also did a great job (although I had a little difficulty thinking of Dianna Agron as anyone other than Quinn Fabray). Unfortunately, the excellent cast was not enough to compensate for the gaping holes in the story.
Transplanted from Europe to Brooklyn as part of the witness protection program, Giovanni (aka Frank) and his family must blend in to their new neighbourhood or risk being discovered by the most dangerous men in the New York mafia, who are out to kill them all. The set-up definitely has promise, but I was frustrated by the fact that we never really get the context of the situation–I kept waiting for my unanswered questions to be addressed–What made him rat out his friends? How and why did he do it?–and still had nothing by the time the credits rolled.
At multiple points it seemed as though an explanation was forthcoming–De Niro sits at his typewriter, prefaces his memoir and then launches into a list of reasons why he is actually a “good guy”. While there was plenty of irony to go around, this little detour was seriously lacking in substance and not at all what I was looking for.
Overall, the concept was a little heavy on the clichés: The loud Italian family from Brooklyn–obnoxious wife, mobster father, manipulative son learning to work the system and love-struck teenaged daughter who gets too hung up on the wrong guy–it was all very obvious and a little over-done. I also have an issue with movies that attempt to be ‘meta’ by referencing other films the stars have acted in. An analysis of Goodfellas by Robert De Niro acting as the character of Giovanni Manzoni–that was a bit much.
That being said, the suspense factor in the final scene was pretty great–definitely well shot, and successful in keeping me on the edge of my seat. With a bit more time devoted to back-story and a little less heavy-handedness with the clichés it might actually have made for a decent film.
A media studies grad and pop culture junkie currently navigating the strange and mysterious world of corporate communications, Lauren spends most of her time buried under an ever-growing pile of TBR novels. Based in Toronto, she can be found at the local theatre every Tuesday for cheap movie night. Follow her on Twitter @laurenxnisbet