Monday, March 19, 2018

SXSW with Abe: Family

I’m so excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the first time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Directed by Laura Steinel
Narrative Feature Competition

Some people just don’t want kids. There are so many different reasons that people don’t start a family, and not being able to do so biologically or not having found the right partner may not be all that stand in the way. For those who are highly motivated to succeed and may not have inspiring pictures of what a happy childhood can look like, or even those who do, work can take the place of all else, with the idea of kids serving as nothing more than a distraction that can’t be afforded in the pursuit of a successful career where winning and making money are paramount.

Kate (Taylor Schilling) is a driven, high-ranking businesswoman who will do pretty much anything to get ahead, happy to throw a colleague under the bus or to profit off someone else’s misfortune, be it an unruly child needing extra attention or an impending maternity leave. Her tendency to say whatever she is thinking has hardly made her friends, and her relationship with her family is nonexistent. When her brother (Eric Edelstein) and sister-in-law (Alison Tolman) beg her to watch their daughter Maddie (Bryn Vale) when they must make an emergency trip out of town, she is introduced to a whole new part of life, initially reluctant to bond with the unpopular teenager who really doesn’t feel like she fits in.

This is an undeniably funny movie, one that uses Kate’s antisocial nature and Maddie’s bizarre interests to create an entertaining dynamic between the two people who rarely do what others around them want or tell them to. Both characters don’t feel terribly true to life, exaggerated for comedic effect and not entirely consistent. Their predictable path to mutual understanding and friendship may be familiar, but it does manage to be enjoyable and involving. The film’s peculiar focus on Kate’s interest in being a juggalo gives it some unique if decidedly odd energy.

Schilling is used to playing someone no one else likes after starring on “Orange is the New Black,” and her performance here is decent if a bit purposely muted. Vale does a solid job of playing Maddie, capturing her general lack of desire to conform or be enthusiastic about anything. In supporting roles, Brian Tyree Henry and Kate McKinnon earn some laughs as Maddie’s karate teacher and an obnoxious neighbor, respectively, and Fabrizio Zacharee Guido steals all his scenes as Baby Joker, Maddie’s new friend from the gas station who has no clue what’s going on around him but doesn’t seem to care as he enjoys life. That’s a good description of this film in general, which is fun enough if some of its strangeness doesn’t feel necessitated.


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