Enjoyable little mix of comedy and drama that is well handled by Goldblum
Ginger is cleaning her house in preparation for her future-husband's parents coming to visit. However they arrive several hours before Ginger was expecting them - and she is not quite prepared for the force of nature that both of them are. Things get a bit easier when Joe and Ethel's other daughter and her boyfriend arrive and then Joe Jr finally arrives. Things are tense enough before the arrival of long lost brother Jack, bringing surprises with him.
Many of the shorts in the `short story cinema' series tended to really be different or do their own thing; too many of them had the same visual style and even the same light jazz score. However Little Surprises did pretty well to break away from the mould even if it does still have the same jazz score as all the other shorts in the series seem to have! Director Jeff Goldblum manages to make the film feel quite colourful and interesting and uses the settings pretty well to match the mood of the film - the open spaces and colour of the room for the early comic scenes and the less detailed background of the pool when the focus changes. In fact the whole film manages to carry off this sudden swap between an opening that suggests that this will be a comedy and a second half that is loading with confrontation and surprises. This is not to suggest that the plot is perfect though, because it isn't. It leaves too many questions unanswered and, of course, some of the coincidences and their outfall are a little hard to accept. Nevertheless it still mostly works and is interesting for the duration.
The cast is also very good even if some are not totally clear in their characters. Steiger obviously stands out as the drunken Joe senior but, in the more serious second half, it has less need for him. Preston's Ginger is good and she handles things well. Whipple's Joe Jr is a bit too weedy and unlikely to not only be part of this family but also to be with Ginger; likewise Pellegrino's Jack is far too clichéd a character. The other couple of roles (Cavanaugh and Moskow) are OK and are used well to support both the comic side and the more serious side.
Overall this is an enjoyable short - it has an interesting plot that mixes the serious with the comic to pretty good effect. It may not be perfect but it is good enough despite having one or two of the flaws that the other films in the short story cinema series do.
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