The Perfect Family
For a film touching on a number of hot button issues, The Perfect Family feels awfully lightweight. Anne Renton’s feature-length debut, starring Kathleen Turner and Emily Deschanel, is a pleasant and maybe somewhat listless affair that could have been serviced by a little more bite. Perhaps it’s pointless to wish for a film that doesn’t exist, but considering the places the film goes, it’s a shame it doesn’t have the conviction to take it a few steps further sometimes.
Turner plays Eileen Cleary, the devout Catholic matriarch of a family that many in the church community consider to be a religious, conservative ideal. So much so, in fact, that Eileen is nominated for the title of Catholic Woman of the Year. Unfortunately for Eileen, she’s been avoiding the fact that her daughter, Shannon, (Deschanel) is a pregnant unwed lesbian; her husband, Frank (Michael McGrady), is a recovering alcoholic; and son Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter) is leaving his wife-by-shotgun-marriage. Eileen is torn between her faith, her pursuit of the title, and the fact that it might be most godly of her to accept her family for what it is.
It has all the makings of something like could have hued a little darker, perhaps not coincidentally because Eileen mildly resembles Turner in Serial Mom. That it instead resembles a Lifetime Network Movie of the Week is only strengthened by shoehorned gags like Eileen dropping communion wafers on the floor and stuffing them in her mouth, or an unnecessary bit where Frank Jr. stumbles into the house drunk while she’s meeting with an archbishop. Later, when the film takes a sudden melodramatic shift, it seems to be punishing its characters for the sake of moving Eileen forward. Turner’s performance is honest and subtle, and she manages not to go into predictable histrionics (imagine Diane Keaton in the role) even in situations like seeing her daughter kiss her girlfriend. If only the writing was stronger, or Renton’s TV movie direction had more flair, The Perfect Family could have been as meaty as its topic. As it is, the movie’s just fluff.