Is Anything But
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
My friend Jean Carper has a state-of-the-art home movie theater (other than constant problems with her remote controller). Last weekend Scot Hoard, programmer for the Tropic Cinema, and I used Jean’s wall-sized screen to check out “The Perfect Family,” an indie film that’s now playing at the Tropic.
One of the main reasons we wanted to see it was the starring turn by Kathleen Turner, the one-time sexpot of “Body Heat” and those “Jewel of the Nile” movies. Not to mention being the husky voice of Jessica Rabbit (“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way,” she says in “Who Killed Roger Rabbit”).
Following illness (rheumatoid arthritis) and John Water’s hilarious “Serial Mom,” she’s been somewhat absent from the silver screen, popping up now and then in such TV fare as “Law and Order” and “Friends” (where she played Helena Handbasket).
“When I was about 40, the roles started slowing down,” she says. “I started getting offers to play mothers and grandmothers. I’d say the cut-off point for leading ladies today is 35/40, whereas half the men in Hollywood get their start then.” She’s now nearly 52 and has added a few pounds as happens in late middle age. In “The Perfect Family” she’s a grandmother.
Here she portrays Eileen Cleary, a housewife who has been nominated by her priest (Richard Chamberlain doing that clerical thing again) as the Catholic Woman of the Year. One of the reasons, aside from her charitable works, is that she has a perfect family. Her main competition (Sharon Lawrence) has a serious flaw: one of her cousins married a Protestant.
But as it turns out, Eileen’s family is far from perfect. Her firefighter husband (Michael McGrady) is a recovering alcoholic. Her son (Jason Ritter) has left his wife for a manicurist. And her daughter (Emily Deschanel) is a lesbian, pregnant with a “turkey baster” baby.
And Eileen wants that award so badly.
Why is doing the right thing so difficult for a good Catholic parishioner?
When the lights came up, Jean Carper turned to me and asked, “What’s your instant review?”
Without hesitating, I replied, “First of all, it’s a sweet movie. And it’s good to see Kathleen Turn acting in films again. But it was a little too inspirational and predictable. It came off like a movie made for the Hallmark Channel.”
The other viewers nodded. Scot said, “Yeah, like a Hallmark movie.”
The film tackles some dicey questions, like reconciling your Christian beliefs with family needs. Should she sign the petition against gays adopting children despite her daughter’s so-called lifestyle choice? Should she insist that her son live up to his vows, even when trapped in a loveless marriage? Should she gloss over these family issues when being interviewed by the monsignor for the Catholic Woman of the Year award?
Despite Eileen’s awkward and agonizing choices throughout the entire movie, it ends up with a “feel good” ending. Katherine Turner is said to have had a heavy hand in the script.
“I often play women who are not essentially good or likable, and I often go through a stage where I hate them,” she muses. “And then I find the reasons why they are that way, and end up loving and defending them.”
Her character in “The Perfect Family” is kinda like that, but in this case so devout she alienates all those around her. Not a protagonist you admire, despite all her good work. But Kathleen Turner seems determined to make you like her nonetheless.
At least they left the Catholic Woman of the Year resolution for the closing credits. Otherwise I’d have to warn diabetics away from “The Perfect Family.”