Enforced family get-togethers usually prove a source of high drama, and over the years films about weddings, funerals etc have proved somewhat of a staple in the cinema. This continues that tradition, seeing the Altman family thrown together while sitting shiva (a Jewish mourning period) following the death of their patriarch.
As is usual with these flicks, each member of the family is dealing with their own issues. Middle son Judd (Bateman) has just found out his wife is cheating on him with his boss, and only his sister Wendy (Fey) is aware that he is getting a divorce. Eldest brother Paul (Stoll) and his wife Annie (Hahn) are struggling to conceive, while feckless youngest son Phillip (Driver) is sleeping with his therapist, Tracy (Britton) whom he invites to join the family. She just happens to be a big fan of his mother Hillary (Fonda) a celebrity psychologist, who has a tendency to overshare her children’s experience of growing up in her books.
Being back in the family home gives Judd a chance to catch up with old friends and girlfriends, while family tensions come to the fore as the close proximity to each other creates huge problems for the eclectic group.
The problem with these family-gathering type films is that we’ve all been there, and often we recognise similar events from our own lives, which can often be a rather uncomfortable watch – after all movies are supposed to offer escapism. This features a first rate cast, and Fey and Bateman in particular work really well together and have great chemistry.
Everyone gives a solid performance, and there is enough underlying tension to keep you interested. However, it all feels a bit pedestrian. For a story that contains illicit affairs it never really gets exciting, and while Levy was probably going for a realistic feel, this leads to periods where it drags somewhat. It has some beautiful and hilarious moments,but they are too inconsistent, and with so many affairs of the heart and egos in the one place for most of the film, there isn’t always enough time to develop the characters issues fully.
Not the most exciting film of the year and far from an original idea, but it is worth a look for the performances and the moments of brilliance.
In cinemas October 24th