Review of “The Family Fang”
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Run time: 105 minutes
Jason Bateman, as a director, has accomplished something pretty impressive in his sophomore film “The Family Fang”. He has made a dramedy about a dysfunctional family, that perfectly toes the line between touching and tragically humorous. Known more for his ability to play the perfect, comedic straight man in things like “Arrested Development” and “This Is Where I Leave You”, Bateman has shown equal ability behind the camera already in “Bad Words”. Here he tackles darker, more serious material but is still able to inject some of his trademark dry humor.
Annie (Kidman) and Baxter Fang (Bateman) have lived interesting lives. Raised by their performance artist parents Caleb (Walken) and Camille (Plunkett), the two were used as actors in situations designed to created social unrest and “Wake people up”. Like most art, that of the Fangs was met with both adoration and disgust in the art community. Some felt it challenged social norms and gave people perspective, while others thought of it as nothing more than a series of ridiculous pranks. Whatever the case, and for better or worse, it all effected the two children.
Over time though, Caleb became more and more obsessed with the art, and the children grew up and moved on Annie became an actress and Baxter a moderately successful novelist). This left Caleb and Camille to put on their Performance pieces by themselves, earning little to no applause. Things just aren’t the same without the family dynamic.
When Baxter is injured in an accident, involving a lot of beer and a potato gun, the family all ends up under the same roof again. Soon after, Caleb and Camille disappear leaving nothing but a running car, a bit of blood, and their two kids trying to decide if their parents are really gone or just making more of their brand of art.
Bateman seems confident as a director, throwing many different elements (both visually and emotionally) into the pot and creating something quite fulfilling. Like I said before, there is a delicate balance here both in his story telling and his performance on screen. What unfolds on screen feels intimate and somehow familiar, for anyone who has had a fractured relationship with a parent or parental figure. It never feels heavy handed or too morose. It brushes up against those themes and then pulls back a layer to reveal something lighthearted.
Batman has made a film that has a lot of honesty and heart. The chemistry between he and Kidman helps it along into becoming a really good film and a solid second effort for the director. I always look forward to seeing what he does as an actor, but now he has my attention as a film-maker as well.