Kathleen Turner has played matriarch to many a film family – from Serial Mom to The Virgin Suicides, her maternal mania is always striking. The Perfect Family is no exception to this rule.
Eileen Cleary (Academy Award® nominee Kathleen Turner), Catholic woman, wife, and mother, has just been nominated for her parish’s Catholic Woman of the Year Award. Her devotion to G-d and the Church, and service to the community, is second to none. All that stands between Eileen and the coveted prize is her longtime rival and fellow nominee, Agnes Dunn (Sharon Lawrence), and a home visit by the church board, who wants to make sure that all the members of Eileen’s family are as devout as she is. Unfortunately for Eileen, her family has…lapsed, somewhat. Eileen’s daughter Shannon (Emily Deschanel), a successful lawyer, is five months pregnant and about to marry her longtime girlfriend, Angela (Angelique Cabral). Eileen’s son, Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter), a firefighter who knocked up (and subsequently married) his high school girlfriend, has left his wife and twin sons to pursue the local salon owner. As her chances of winning begin to crumble, Eileen is forced to decide whether she must choose between religion and family, or if she can have them both.
Anne Renton’s directorial debut doesn’t shy away from, well, anything. Joking about everything from sex and hygienic products to homosexuality and religion, The Perfect Family is wickedly and irreverently funny. Struggling to reconcile the dogma of her Catholic faith and the reality of her life, Eileen’s tongue is frequently as sharp as the oft-raised arch of her left eyebrow. To Eileen, it is perfectly clear that what one is ‘supposed to do’ should always trump that which might provide more happiness (“I don’t have to think; I’m a Catholic!”).
The Perfect Family‘s lightheartedness is accompanied by a heartfelt exploration of Eileen’s internal and emotional conflict. Turner and Deschanel’s profound performances make it easy to sympathize with their characters’ plights. One, finding her world in chaos, seeks comfort by desperately clinging to the principles that have ruled her life for so long. The other, having found someone who brings joy to her life, desperately seeks her mother’s acceptance in order to make her happiness complete. These issues are hardly exclusive to women or Catholics. Their universality, and nonjudgmental depiction, allow each audience member to empathize in their own unique way.
Turner and Deschanel’s earnest struggles, and Turner’s well-played antics, are complemented by the stellar performances of Lawrence, Cabral, Elizabeth Peña (Angela’s more accepting and boisterous mother), and a witty cast of supporting characters. Our world would be a much more amusing place if everyone had their talent for repartee.
Go see The Perfect Family. Even if you think the movie, its jokes, or topics are sinful, seeing it is a transgression you won’t regret having to confess.
The Perfect Family premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 and will be released in New York and Los Angeles on May 4, 2012, and elsewhere on May 11, 2012. It will also be available OnDemand and on DVD (June 26, 2012).
The Perfect Family is rated PG-13 and runs 84 minutes long.
For fans of: Bend It Like Beckham, Juno, Penelope, Saved, and Whip It.