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"Familiar Strangers" asks the question. "Is it really possible to relate to ones parents and siblings after being replaced by the family dog? . . . Perhaps as friends - weird friends?" An off beat - funny - heartfelt story of family negotiating the changing relationships between parents and children, especially as those children grow into adulthood. Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. Small indie movie that tries to capture the frustration, pain and struggles we each face in the slow evolution of role within an aging family. While not at the level of "Junebug", it does deliver some excellent moments, situations and dialogue.
I first noticed Shawn Hatosy in the underrated "Outside Providence" and have enjoyed his work in "The Cooler" and "Nobel Son". His desire to re-connect with a Dad, who is crushed that his son chose to move to the city rather than run the family hardware store, is realistic and well played. Tom Brewer is excellent as the distant dad, even though he is a dead ringer of Billy Bob Thornton in "Swing Blade". Quirky DJ Qualls delivers the zingers and quips in fine fashion, Anna Paquin lookalike Cameron Richardson plays the bitter, recently divorced sister who just can't get it together. The mom (Ann Dowd) continues to do what she has always done ... act as the protector for her family, shielding them from bad news (such as the death of a relative!).
This typically dysfunctional family does manage to re-connect over a game of donkey ball at the annual fair. That's quite an event. Still despite the solid nature of John Bell's script, I constantly had the feeling that I was watching an amateur film. This was mostly due to the choppiness of Zachary Adler's direction. The numerous close-ups actually reduced the intimacy of many moments in the film. Worth seeing, but not at the level of "Juno" or "Little Miss Sunshine" as it is being advertised.
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