Monday 13 February 2017

The Family Fang

Jason Bateman is back with his second attempt at directing, with ‘The Family Fang’ (which he also stars in). Baxter (Bateman) and Annie (Nicole Kidman) are the children of the famous Fang family, who were well known for their public stunts that they described as art. The two of them were encouraged into the roles of ‘Child A’ and ‘Child B’, yet now they’ve all grown up they’re trying to move on with their own identities. Annie is a now an actress with a drinking problem and a habit of gaining negative publicity in the press, and Baxter a not-so-successful author who’s struggling to get the right words on the page. The family aren’t in contact so much anymore until their parents, Caleb (Christopher Walken) and Camille (Maryann Plunkett), go missing and no one can be sure whether it’s a real case or an elaborate hoax.

‘The Family Fang’ is a comedy, although it contains dark undertones that certainly make you question the genre at times. It’s also very eccentric – from the very start we’re thrown straight into one of the Fang family pranks and it sets the tone for the rest of the film. The family are clearly dysfunctional from the offset, and the dynamics between them are interesting to watch.

I loved the way that it was filmed – unsettling at points, but also intimate and carefully crafted. The flashbacks are particularly good, and give us an insight into how things came to be. Character development is definitely a high point for ‘The Family Fang’, with much of the focus being about how the characters act around one another, and how their relationships have come about from certain notions and experiences. In some ways it reminded me a bit of ‘The Royal Tenebaums’ – not quite as gripping, but a similar sort of feel.

Both family values and the definition of art are explored, but the focus on the latter made me feel like people interested in the boundaries of art would take more away from it. It actually made it quite hard to sympathise with the family by the end of the film, as Caleb is just so deluded and unlikeable due to his artistic beliefs. With the former it focuses a lot of negative qualities of parents and how this affects their own children in turn – an interesting topic that feels quite individual in this instance. 

The problem with it was just that it didn’t deliver the result it promised – the start was exciting and compelling and hard to turn away form, yet as it progressed it seemed to lose that somewhat. Something about the film seemed not to care too much about the resolution, and so most of the anticipation was lost by the end. Whatever had been building up got misplaced along the way, leading to disappointment as the credits rolled in.

Despite the ending it still was a good film though – the acting was good all round, and the addition of the flashbacks and the documentary-style filming gave it an intimate feel. ‘The Family Fang’ is both macabre and weird so great if you like that sort of style, but it probably won’t blow you away.


Hannah Read

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