Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer

Reel Reviews: This ‘Family’ needs therapy

The Family is a surprisingly lighthearted movie about sociopaths.

  • Sep. 20, 2013 8:00 a.m.

After ratting out all his gangster friends, Giovanni Manzoni (Robert DeNiro) and his family must live within the confines of a witness relocation program.

The problem is, they can’t behave themselves and manage to blow their cover every 90 days, needing to be relocated again by their CIA handler (Tommy Lee Jones).

It’s not just the patriarch with violent tendencies, as mother Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), son Warren (John D’Leo) and daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) must each deal with the problems raised by everyday life in Normandy, the only way they know how.

We say, “The Family is a surprisingly lighthearted movie about sociopaths.”

TAYLOR: This is a strange movie. I understand it. I get it. I can even appreciate why Luc Besson directed it the way he did. It makes sense, but I still have a hard time liking it. What we have here is a comedy about unfunny business. The violence is blatant, yet treated through the eyes of the family executing it; that is to say, lightly, as a matter of day-to-day life: You go shopping, the clerk is snooty to you, so you blow up his grocery.

HOWE: I found it entertaining and somewhat funny in a sick sort of way. You know what type of movie it is going to be when you have DeNiro in his mafia style role, that dark comedy that tries to outdo the last one. For example just look at Goodfellas or The Departed, they’re fantastic movies and yet you have the dark, twisted violence.

TAYLOR: The second problem with the film is that I found the situation completely unbelievable. The Blake family (Blake is the family’s fake surname) is under constant surveillance yet manages to evade that surveillance every single day. Each member of the family conducts a wanton crime spree from the very beginning, harassing, intimidating, beating up, destroying property and even murdering people in their very small town, without raising so much as one French eyebrow. (Not to mention the CIA.)

HOWE: I thought the acting was very good, but you wouldn’t expect any different from DeNiro and Pfeiffer. But it was their two children played by D’Leo and Agron who I was very much surprised by. They played their parts perfectly and I think we will see them in even bigger roles in the near future.

TAYLOR: The comedy lies in the depiction of the family at home, trying to be ordinary people living ordinary lives and in the absurdity of the community welcoming them. There are a few laughs and we want to root for these monsters. I’m just a little unwilling to get past their monsterisms. In a way this film satirizes its audience by our willingness to laugh, yet we do.

—Howe gives The Family 3.5 BBQs out of 5.

— Taylor gives it 2.5 jars of peanut butter out of 5.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.