I Saw A Film Today… The Family

the-familyI’ve never thought about peanut butter and it’s consumption and availability outside the grand ole U.S. of A before. That is, until I viewed The Family. Now, this film is a bit misleading on the views of Europeans on Peanut butter. According from some internet user research (which I concede isn’t the most reliable source of information), it’s something that is eaten but rarely.¬† But it’s pretty interesting to think about, all the food that we don’t get here stateside. I’ll admit an affliction for UK goodies, like Jaffa Cakes and Jammie Dodgers and the like. I’ll also admit I have no idea where I’m going with this. This is by far my worst introductory paragraph I’ve done. Maybe there is a lesson in this somewhere…

Giovanni Maznoni (Robert De Niro) fondly remembers being a big shot in a Brooklyn mafia a few years back. But six years later Gio is in Witness Protection after snitching on a Don along with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Dianna Agron), and son (John D’Leo). The family has been relocated to Normandy, where apparently all the stereotypicalized-French citizens of that country live.

LIfe isn’t too terrible here. Yeah, in order for the family to get a little help and respect, they have to break a bone or two or twelve. But each member deals with their time there in their own personal way- that is until the people they are trying to hide from learns where they are. Now they must all work together in order to make it out alive.

The Family is, on the surface, a rather fun film. If you just watch the film and don’t think much about it, you will have a pretty good time. But once you begin thinking about it, it’s a messy mash of unfulfilled plot alleys. Nearly nothing is ever fully realized or has resolution, which works for some films, but not one in this genre. This all culminates in a disappointing last act that really puts a damper on the whole experience.

Even worse than this hole-filled plot is the uneven shift in tone, like a teen’s virgin experience of driving a manual car. One moment comedic farce, the next serious. From violent to sentimental. But never a combination of two, which can occasionally work. But at times just one of these elements briefly works, most notably the comedy. Especially when a certain popular Martin Scorsese film is mistakenly sent to a local film society instead of Some Came Running, where De Niro’s character is the special guest.

The highlight of this film is the casting. Bob De Niro doesn’t seem to act in this film, but rather live it. It says something about his level of skill that it seems like he merely walked on set the first day and was said “so, what this film about? Do I need a script, really? Nah, I can do this in my sleep”. He also has this ability to make the stuff that is not or should not work do so. There is a pretty great bit where a plumber is trying to screw his over on a job. De Niro casually responds by breaking his legs and then drives him to the hospital. Here, he tries to explain that the plumber fell down his steps even though the doctor tries to explain to him that it is not possible that he broke so many bones by simply falling down steps. Bob just shrugs it off charmingly.

Michelle Pfeiffer is brilliant opposite Mr. De Niro. She has fun with the role and performs it naturally, much like her on-screen hubby. The kids, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo, are pretty enjoyable as well. Agron is a classical beauty, but she can kick you berries in if you piss her off. What she does in her future outside of television will be an interesting thing to watch indeed. I just hope she doesn’t become just another horror show scrub. And who can complain about Tommy Lee Jones? Me, because he did not have more screen time.

Though this film is messy and suffers from a disappointing ending, it’s still rather fun to watch, in only a way that director Luc Besson can do.

Verdict: Rent it!

*Rated R for language, violence, and brief sexuality. 112 minutes. Directed by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element).

**Thanks to my friend Cody for viewing this with me.

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