Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Really, really dysfunctional families

It doesn't take much TV or movie watching to make me very, very thankful for my family.  Sure, we have quirks and problems; we're human.  But my childhood and upbringing couldn't have been much more ideal, and I continue to have a good relationship with my parents and siblings.  Kelly, too.  I remember several years ago, when Kelly was at a bridal shower for a friend, when our pastor's wife, trying to bring a dose of reality to the bride-to-be's bliss, said, "Remember, there's no such thing as a 'Leave it to Beaver' perfect home."  Kelly chimed in with, "Yes, there is!  I was raised in one!"

What mother can bear to see her son hauled off to jail?

These movies will definitely make you thankful for your family, even if you don't have a great home life.  The first selection, Madeo (Mother), was directed by Joon-Ho Bong, who also directed the monster movie Gwoemul (The Host).  With him at the helm, you can guess this isn't a typical domestic drama.  Do-joon, a mentally-challenged adult, lives with his protective mother.  When he's accused of the murder of a young girl, she is determined to defend his honor.  She knows Do-Joon's confession was coerced and will stop at nothing to expose the killer, even it it means taking the law into her own hands.  This Korean film develops in a surprising way.  Even if she's a little too protective, parents can appreciate her motherly love.

Another protective father is the creepy Robin Williams, who plays Lance, the father in World's Greatest Dad.  When's the last time he was funny in movie?  RV was good fun.  Before that, I loved Jumanji.  Most of his recent movies, like this one, cast him as a dark, brooding, character.  This is dark, but not, in my opinion, a comedy.  When his teenage son Kyle dies tragically, in a potentially humiliating way, Lance, a frustrated, failed writer who teaches poetry at Kyle's school, tries to redeem his son's legacy.  Kyle was mean, not very popular, and got along terribly with Lance.  But Lance pens a suicide note and begins a fictional journal that turn Kyle into a martyr, a hero for his school.  Like Mother, Lance isn't so much concerned with the truth of what happened as with defending his son.  Unlike Mother, Lance is more concerned with his own reputation than his son's.  World's Greatest Dad is a weird, unpleasant movie.  Even in Lance's efforts to help his son, he's pretty despicable. 

I do have to give the movie credit for one scene.  When they're riding in Lance's car, he gets onto Kyle for putting his feet up on the dash, making Kyle mad.  Later, after Kyle dies, Lance looks over to the passenger seat and notices Kyle's dirty footprints on the dash.  It's a poignant reminded to cherish our children and choose our battles wisely.  Who really cares about footprints on the dashboard when you no longer have your children to ride with you?

I said, clean your room!

These next two take a different twist on adding to the family.  In The Stepfather, Michael comes home from school to find his mother in love with David, a new, way-too-perfect boyfriend.  He suspects that something is wrong.  Sure enough, this is a guy who preys on single women, endearing themselves to their family, then murders them and moves on.  In a way, you have to suspend disbelief--how can any woman be duped by a guy like that!  But you might imagine the single mom, ready, even desperate, to have a man to help, someone with a good act might move on in.  As Michael's suspicions escalate, David gets creepier, and they finally have a big standoff, with a violent hunt through the house.  There it turns into standard killer-hunting-his-victims-in-the-house horror movie fare, but pretty well-done. 

In another twist, in Orphan, a couple trying to rebuild their marriage and recover from the pain of losing a child adopts a Russian girl from an area orphanage. It turns out little Esther isn't what she seems, and wreaks havoc on their family, terrorizing their two biological children and driving a wedge between the parents.  The premise is pretty far-fetched, but not totally unbelievable.  This is not a PSA for adoption.  Hopefully it's so far out there that no one would be put off of adopting by this crazy movie.

A tender moment between mother and mutant daughter.

Finally, a little sc-fi family story.  Elsa and Clive, genetic scientists in Splice, have spliced together the DNA of different animals for harvesting tissue.  They want to take the next step, using human DNA, but their company forbids it, so they secretly do so on their own.  Unbeknownst to Clive, Elsa follows her wish to have children and uses her own DNA, producing Dren.  There are some interesting ideas here about cloning, but they are overwhelmed by the horror factor and a huge icky factor. 

Of all these movies, the only one I might recommend is Mother, and that with some caveats.  I'm thankful for a mother who loves me, and the real world's greatest dad.  I'm glad I don't have a stepfather, and thankful for an adopted child who's a terrific kid.  And having a child by genetic splicing never crossed my mind.  My family of birth and my family of marriage aren't perfect, but these crazy movies, in a weird sort of way, remind me to appreciate my family!

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