‘The Perfect Family’ Movie Review
All that stands between Eileen Cleary (Kathleen Turner) and the coveted prize of Catholic Woman of the Year is her philandering son (Jason Ritter), her ex-alcoholic husband (Michael McGrady), and her gay daughter (Emily Deschanel) in The Perfect Family, a new movie by first-time director Anne Renton.
This very timely film explores the ideology of a woman who is so desperate for absolution that she’s almost willing to sacrifice her very imperfect family in order to please a religion that does not approve of them. Yet despite the somewhat heavy themes, there is a comedic tone that runs through the script, aided greatly by Turner’s terrific performance. It takes an actress of her skill level to make the audience feel for an ultra-conservative woman with a gay daughter who would let herself be bullied into signing an anti-gay adoption petition.
Turner’s portrayal of Eileen is so spot-on that it makes up for a few of the films flaws, namely the somewhat rushed ending and the lack of resolution with Eileen’s biggest adversary, Agnes Dunn (Sharon Lawrence). But perhaps that’s more true to life. These are massive issues; overcoming them doesn’t happen overnight and it usually doesn’t happen with a cathartic speech that puts a frenemy in her place. Even if it would have been great to see it.
As Eileen’s adult children, Ritter and Deschanel feel like a true pair of siblings, able to fight at the dinner table, yet be there for each other in the worst of circumstances. Ritter was perhaps under-used, but Deschanel threw herself into her role. Her scenes with Turner weren’t always easy to watch, but they were truthful, and for a movie that delves into marriage equality and gay rights, that’s far more important.
Several scenes were stolen, however, by the relatively unknown Elizabeth Pena who played Christina, the mother of Deschanel’s character’s wife, Angela. To me, she was a shining example of unconditional love, and I only wish she and Turner had more scenes together. If anyone walks away from the film rethinking their views on these hot-button topics, especially in this election year, she might be the reason for it.
While this movie is sure to ruffle feathers with some Catholics, I cannot say that it skews any beliefs or paints a negative picture about organized religion. It simply posits that family is more important than doctrine and that loving people as individuals is the greatest reward of all.
The Perfect Family opens in limited release today, Friday May 4th.