FAMILY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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There are fewer comedic tropes as over-trodden as the self-absorbed adult whose life becomes enriched when a child suddenly enters their life. Think Charlie Chaplin in The Kid or Wallace Beery in The Champ. Later versions include Kramer vs. Kramer, Paper Moon and About a Boy. Meanwhile, Shirley Temple wouldn’t have had a career if this premise did not exist.

But when more women entered the corporate world in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, Hollywood gave us films like Baby Boom and Mr. Mom. The best movie in this genre is Mostly Martha, a 2001 German film about a driven female chef who suddenly must care for her 8-year-old niece that got an unnecessary Hollywood remake with Catherine Zeta-Jones as the lead in 2007’s No Reservations.

But here we are 12 years later and little progress has been made, judging by Laura Steinel’s directorial debut Family. At least this comedy gets Orange Is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling out of her prison garb and into a millennial power-suit as Kate, a tactless working gal trying to climb the ladder of success at her hedge fund job while lacking any kind of filter when spewing demands and insults at her co-workers. She is nothing but scathingly honest. Suddenly, she is recruited by her estranged brother to be a caretaker for her awkward tween niece, Maddie (Bryn Vale), who is bullied in school, sneaks out of ballet class to take martial arts lessons instead and likes to eat salt off of pretzel sticks.

I can see how the fact that Kate doesn’t coddle Maddie as her parents do as they force her into stereotypical female behavior such as wearing a fancy dress and going to a school dance does benefit her. But why does Kate have to tone down and accept that the people she works with have bad taste in the chain restaurants that they patronized? Sure, it’s fun to see Kate McKinnon as her brother’s pushy neighbor and mother of four who immediately tries to shame Kate for her lack of maternal concern. And I like that the actress playing Maddie is utterly believable and watchable in the role. But desperation rears its head when we and most of the cast are forced to endure a concert gathering of the hip-hop band the Insane Clown Posse and their clown-faced fans known as Juggalos. These guys have been around since the late ‘80s. Get over it and the fact that women don’t always have to be nurturers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Family is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for May 3, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.