Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tribeca Film Festival 2016: The Family Fang

There are a lot of surface similarities between The Family Fang and Arrested Development, another tragicomedy about an extravagantly dysfunctional family in which Jason Bateman's character reacts against his parents' high-handed neglect by trying to become a model of emotional health and stability. But where Arrested Development used a light dusting of sorrow to add shading to a gleefully absurdist romp, The Family Fang is an earnest story of redemption with a wacky veneer that doesn't quite fit.

Baxter (Bateman) and Annie Fang (Nicole Kidman) spent their childhood as the sometimes unknowing stars of the pieces their performance-artist parents cooked up. Flashbacks throughout the film reveal bits of these stunts, in which the family stages fake-outs—like one inside Central Park that has the kids playing music and singing (badly) while one of their parents, posing as a stranger, riles up the protective crowd by ranting about their lousy act. There's anarchic fun to be had for the children in fooling large groups of people and then getting praised for it, by their parents and by the art-world curators who admire the family's work. But after a piece that puts the children in a profoundly uncomfortable position, they develop a nagging sense, which grows more troubling as they get older, that their parents care more about them as actors than as people. Even their names are a performance-art in joke, engineered so they could be referred to as Child A and Child B.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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