08th Oct2019

‘Family (2018)’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Taylor Schilling, Kate McKinnon, Bryn Vale, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido, Allison Tolman, Brian Tyree Henry, Matt Walsh, Eric Edelstein, Peter Horton, Jessie Ennis, Karan Kendrick, Juan Gaspard | Written and Directed by Laura Steinel


I was drawn to 2018’s Family initially by the lead-casting of Taylor Schilling, mainly because of how much I liked her throughout the seasons of Orange is the New Black. I also found an appeal in the synopsis, which sounded fresh, interesting and fun. Who doesn’t dig that kind of thing? As for the brief idea here, we follow Kate (Schilling), a Senior V.P who is very focused on her career, but when her estranged brother asks her, last-minute, to babysit her niece Maddie, she reluctantly helps out and see’s her life becomes a chaotic one in the process. Oh, and there’s Juggalo’s too. Yep.

Directed and written by Laura Steinel, her feature debut, Family had a gloriously layered lead performance from Schilling, both funny and dramatic, relatable and believable. The overall cast do a good job in fact, with many faces being the types that you point at and say “oh, it’s that actor from that movie”. I liked Kate McKinnon here, as Jill, too, even if she wasn’t in here that much. Her character is hilariously annoying, like a fly that you want to swat away, and McKinnon plays her very well. It’s Schilling, though, as Kate, who steals this film and carries it strongly on her shoulders. She’s outspoken, a little on the tactless side, but she’s likeable too. Her life, once she falls into this scenario of babysitting her niece for days upon days, opens itself up, shows us who she is, and who she used to be, all while she forms a bond with Maddie, played by Bryn Vale (Red Band Society) who does another top notch job in her performance. Fabrizio Zacharee Guido does a really good job too, funny and energetic as Dennis. Really, I was impressed with the whole cast, and along with the clever and thoughtful writing, it delivered a wonderful comical drama film that is a real breath of fresh air.

I like comedy movies that have that dramatic nervous system, a depth to them that opens up conversation and makes you actually think about things. It’s funny, though, and with the heart-felt plot and well-structured script from Steinel, Family is one of those easy-to-recommend films, for sure. It’s fairly predictable, I guess, but that didn’t put me off in the slightest. It’s charming and quirky, and seeing Schilling’s work-obsessed and self-obsessed character dissolve and melt into something else was great.

A delightful and very enjoyable debut from Laura Steinel, led by a wonderful performance and some excellent supporting roles, Family shows us that people sometimes need help, even when they don’t ask for it, and that family can be found in unexpected places. It may not be the most original and poignant of films, but it certainly made me smile and the awkward and uncomfortable situations added to that enjoyment. I appreciated the freeing edge that was present here too, taking the film to a level beyond what I expected, and certainly beyond the “usual” comedy flicks that we see hit theatres nowadays. Hopefully more people check this one out, because it’s pretty damn good.

***½  3.5/5


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