Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Cut Review - "Family Weekend"

Directed by:  Benjamin Epps
Starring: Oleysa Rulin, Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Modine and Joey King
Rated: R  
Runtime: 1 hour 36 minutes  
Release Date: March 29, 2013

Emily (Oleysa Rulin) is a very determined teenage girl. She is determined to win her Jump-rope competition finals, but most of all she is determined to get her whole family, which includes her mother (Kristin Chenoweth), her father (Matthew Modine), her brother (Eddie Hassell) and her younger sister (Joey King), to attend her finals to help support her the way a family should. The problem is however that her family is too hopelessly self-obsessed and lazy beyond belief to even pay attention to her. That is until Emily takes matters into her own hands and sets out to reunite her family by kidnapping her parents and forcing them to care again.

Bolstered by a strong lead performance from Oleysa Rulin, this family dramedy about a teen who kidnaps her parents to get their attention is attempting to be both a light hearted observation at the non-malicious self-centered obsessiveness that families can become victim to and a good piece of dark comedy, which it succeeds at to varying degrees. Although it shares more than a few similarities with the 90's Denis Leary comedy The Ref, it's able to stand apart from that film with the simple act of changing the perspective of the situation.

Instead of a bi-partial criminal who becomes a dysfunctional family's therapist through happenstance, it is an actual member of the family taking charge that adds a extra level of emotional turmoil that was absent from that more comedic endeavor. The comedy found in Family Weekend is mostly front loaded, which is little bit deceiving when you look at how the film presents itself. The first 1/3 of the film feels almost like a Wes Anderson style movie, but with more emotion than you usually get from one of his films.

That is its one glaring flaw however, it never feels confident enough to settle on a certain tone long enough to benefit from it. Case in point, when it is revealed that Emily's mother has been cheating on her father and her boyfriend shows up after they have been kidnapped, it should be a recipe for plenty of awkwardly hilarious moments and some real soul searching. Instead though, the boyfriend is tossed in a cage in an upstairs bedroom and forgotten about until the end of the film which is indicative of a lot of the loss of potential there is for the material at hand.


The film eventually pulls it together during the final act and hits some real emotional beats that above all else, feels honest. It may lose its comic edge, but what transpires is surprisingly touching despite the rocky road leading to its conclusion. There aren't many surprises and a few too many inconsistencies with its tone, but with a strong turn by Rulin and some real emotional bonding between parent and child by the end, it is a worthwhile watch if you get the opportunity.


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