|Index||9 reviews in total|
Many critics could argue, perhaps convincingly, that "In the Family"
could be edited from its almost 3 hours to 2 hours, however, the pacing
of the film doesn't suffer from its length. And by taking time to
develop the almost mundane everyday life of a gay couple raising a
young son, the film is actually a bold political statement that speaks
directly to every person who thinks being gay is somehow a non-stop sex
fest. Because of that, the film makes a very strong point even before
the issues at the heart of the movie become front and center. It's a
family friendly film where sexual orientation is almost an afterthought
of the movie and that is what sets the tone and makes it
groundbreaking. That is a long winded way of saying that anyone who
thinks the film should fit into a typical 2 hour movie formula, is
missing the depth of the story and the emotional impact the pacing
Many Asian-American actors would say they hate doing accents because they are connected with stereotypical roles, but Patrick Wang's southern accent probably wasn't what Asian-American actors had in mind and in this case it is a testament to Patrick's incredible acting abilities. I am one who thinks directors should direct and not also take on the demand of acting in their own films because both can suffer, but Patrick Wang's acting and directing are both amazing. He has embraced this film heart and soul and it's evident in its emotional complexity and perhaps this is a case where it could not have been as successful without Patrick in both roles.
In the film the downward spiral starts with the confrontation between Joey (Patrick Wang) and Chad's sister over the will and is a riveting scene that doesn't leave the viewer rooting for anyone, but actually feeling the pain and the point each is making about the circumstances. But for Joey it is the most devastating because everything in his life is gone overnight; his partner, his child, and his home. The loneliness and destruction of his life is powerfully and beautifully created by Patrick's acting and directing making this a heart wrenching film that shouldn't be missed. And the film's conclusion? Emotionally brilliant.
Patrick Wang focuses the image in a way that allows the viewer to
imagine the other spaces not shown on screen. He also carefully selects
each frame to reveal or obscure what is relevant to each moment. I have
no other term for it but 360 degree acting. And included in this acting
ensemble are architecture, objects, sounds, the movement of dust.
What startles too is the amount of time taken to get to know people. I can tell that the actors know this time will be taken, that their portraits will unfold in a more natural way because I saw them relax and actually find responses that at times startled them (themselves). Perhaps this is the greatest homage to actors an actor/ director/ writer can give.
In the accumulation of moments, I felt like I knew this house, I knew what it was to spend time with these people, with this young boy 'Chip', and so when moments such as the trial opened up or we see Joey (Wang)'s shoulders and back of head while he's making a book, emotion came up in me in a subtler way. My experience was less one of spectator and more one of someone who was a friend of this character. At one point, I did utter aloud in reference to Chip, 'please let him come home' in my living room viewing this film all by myself!
I was reading an interview with Alexander Payne in Film Comment recently and he said something like 'we have no idea yet what a film could be'. I think that Mr. Wang has taken his opportunity and really produced something he himself understands and we all must see. I'm thrilled that the film has been made.
Joey Williams (Patrick Wang) and Cody Hines (Trevor St. John) are an
interracial gay couple raising Cody's son Chip (Sebastian Banes) living
in the American South. When Cody dies, his family and Joey slowly come
apart resulting in Joey losing Chip.
The best thing about this is that it's not a melodrama where somebody is a cartoon villain. It is heart breaking at times. The ending is a tear jerker. The story is important, and compelling.
However, it must be judged as a movie and not as a social advocacy. For a first time indie, Patrick Wang does a great job of writing and directing. The biggest problem is the lack of editing. At 169 minutes, it is insanely long. There are long moments of nothing scenes. Patrick have these unthinkable long unimportant takes. It begs to be chop in half. It is possible to allow people time to sit and think. But it is not a good idea to force people to sit through nothing. When this movie works, it breaks your heart. When it doesn't work, it's unbearably boring.
This is a distinctive film with a distinctive lead actor/director/writer, one that will probably be cited in future years as his first imperfect effort. It addresses an important issue - the uncertain rights of gay survivors - head-on from an unexpected, very individual point of view. Joey Williams, the southern-accented, low-key Asian protagonist, is a tremendously loving person - loving not only to his partner and their son (strikingly and adorably played by Sebastian Brodziak), but to others around him. As we learn his back-story as a foster child, this understated readiness to love becomes all the more moving. When he finds himself alone and having to fight for his son, his dilemma is all the more moving because he is clearly a person who, without being weak, sidesteps confrontation. His manner throughout is endearing and very specific, even as he encounters, in the most off- handed way, chilling and heartless homophobia at one of the most difficult moments of his life. The "issue" is certainly front and center here, but we care about him first and foremost as a person - luckily, since we spend far more time with him than one usually would in a film. There are also unexpected gestures of kindness and concern all through the film, one on the part of a Wise Man who appears from the most unexpected corner and reminds us that, even as Joey struggles for the right to be a father, he remains a tender soul in need of a father figure himself; at different moments, a glass of whiskey and a glass of water, each quietly offered, make it clear that he has found one. The film's unhurried pace often serves it well - one of the most moving sequences involves methodically taking out a beer and opening it - but there are also moments that are plain slow and others which keep pushing at a point that has already been made or linger overmuch on history. The film overall should have been at least a third shorter. By being as long as it is, the film actually dilutes the very real intensity of its central contemplation of family and its meaning. But these are flaws in an overall excellent film, one which is rarely predictable and often quietly surprising, above all very warm and human all the way through. Its low-key quirkiness, by the way, includes one of the more off-the-wall bits of product placement to be seen in an indie film, one that will delight the handful of fans who know and care who wrote "Wild Thing". As gracefully integrated as this is, one gets the sense that the director/writer knew the songwriter and wanted, as much as anything else, to help him out; a gesture which sums up the fundamentally loving nature of this entire project.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is certainly not for everyone, at almost 3 hours length, with
minimal soundtrack and mostly static shots. But I sat riveted until the
end, as did most of the audience in the theater.
The plot sounds melodramatic: a gay Asian man fights for the custody of the son he shared with his deceased lover. But writer/director Patrick Wang, who seems clearly influenced by the understated Yasujiro Ozu and Ang Lee, avoids the easy moral conflicts. Instead, he focuses on the daily lives of mostly average and good hearted people. There are no stereotype villains here. Instead of a Hollywood court battle, we have an almost documentary like deposition meeting that still manages to be dramatic and emotionally true.
The cast is uniformly terrific, especially young Sebastian Banes as Chip and Brian Murray as the lawyer. Certain quietly powerful scenes still stay with me, like the kitchen scene post-funeral and Chip replaying the audiotape of his father's voice calling his name. Patrick Wang will be a talent to follow!
There is a fine line that has to be walked whenever talking about gay rights in a film and Patrick Wang walked it like a champion. In the Family is a story about a father, played by the director, Patrick Wang, who loses his life partner, played by Trevor St. John, in a tragic car accident and is left alone with their son, Chip. The movie is a true work of art from beginning to end. There is so much said in this movie about what family is and what it means to be family. In the Family also takes a deep look into what is love, how you should mourn for a lost loved one, and how to get back to the normal routine of life. Patrick Wang breaks new ground in getting himself and his actors to display the truest emotions that make up the very core of what it means to be human. As the film progresses, you can see a change in all the characters as they try to adapt to life once again. The cinematography of the film is so simplistic that it makes the movie all the more real and beautiful, almost as if the audience is poking their heads into the life of a man who is thousands of miles away. This emotionally touching film deserves all of the praise it has been getting and it can definitely be said that In the Family is one of the most moving American indie of this year.
I found this film nothing short of amazingly moving. Patrick Wang blew me away by not only writing the film, but also directing, producing, and starring in it! It is a movie about love and struggle and fighting for what you know in your heart. I enjoyed the film because it didn't rush things, it took its time in letting the characters as well as the audience comprehend the situations as the story unraveled. It is said that, "The only thing stronger than fear is hope," and if there's one way to show that, its through this movie. Not only does the main character, played by Wang, have to deal with being gay in this day in age, he experiences even more turmoil as he continues to lose those close to him. It's a film about believing in hope to pushing yourself to the limit until you can't any longer, but making sure not to lose yourself along the way.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'In the Family' is producer, writer and director Patrick Wang's first
feature which focuses on the conflict between a gay parent, Joey, who
has lost his partner, Cody, in a car accident and Cody's sister and
brother-in-law, who gain custody of Joey's six year old child, Chip,
after it's discovered that the deceased partner never updated his will.
'In the Family' feels like it's based on a real-life story but Wang indicates he got the idea from his dealings he had with a civil rights lawyer. A lawyer figures prominently in the action of the last third of the film played by an excellent Brian Murray, who basically uses his 'people skills', to successfully re-unite Joey with the child, who was legally 'abducted' from him.
The film's major shortcoming is that it's almost three hours in length and sometimes moves at a glacial pace. That's because director Wang has a fondness for long takes. Sometimes they work: when Joey learns of partner Cody's death, the camera fixates on Joey from behind, standing in shock at the hospital, and the full import of the tragedy is felt, despite the lack of any sound on the soundtrack. Other times, one wishes that Wang employed a little bit more judicious editing, to move things along a tad bit more briskly.
Wang does an excellent job in humanizing his protagonist, Joey, the well-adjusted Tennessee contractor, who ends up bewildered by the selfish actions of his in-laws, who take his child away from him, without regard to the feelings of a man who has been a good father for six years. We can infer that sister-in-law Eileen's decision to take Chip away from Joey is based on her disdain for his homosexuality. The prejudice against Joey extends to the community-at-large, manifested by the multitude of attorneys who refuse to take his case. There's one excellent scene where Joey is referred to an attorney by a friend who turns out to be anything but sympathetic. He tells Joey, "that kind of stuff" (meaning gay relationships with their attendant sexual mores), will be rejected out of hand by any Judge in the State of Tennessee.
'In the Family' ends on a happy note, after Joey offers to restore an old book for kindly retired attorney Paul Hawks (Brennan). Hawks reminds one of the homespun Judge, Joe Welch, who presided over the Army-McCarthy trials during the 50s; he's drawn to Joey, and willing to come out of retirement, since he can see this is a decent man who has been wronged. Hawks smartly avoids dealing with the Tenneesse judiciary directly and manages to convince Joey to proffer up an unusual gambit: in exchange for a deposition, Joey is willing to cede the house formerly owned by partner Cody, which he's been living in, since his in-laws allowed him to stay there, following Cody's death.
The deposition is really an opportunity for Joey to plead his case to his in-laws, and for them to realize that they were all wrong about Joey, and what kind of person he is. The attorney for the in-laws attempts to impugn Joey's character by emphasizing that he acted out as a twelve year old while in a reform school, but that behavior backfires, as both Eileen and her husband realize that their attorney's behavior was inappropriate.
All's well that end's well, when Joey is reunited with Chip at film's end. Presumably, the bitter recriminations between both parties involved, have been resolved, and Joey will at least have visitation rights, if not getting to act as Chip's regular father, again.
'In the Family' ends up as a sensitive meditation on an unusual child custody case. Creator Patrick Wang shows real talent for coming up with a very realistic plot as well as directing all the actors (including himself) with great sensitivity. If you're willing to put up with slow pacing in spots, you'll be rewarded with not only a grand plea for 'tolerance' but a strategy for reconciling deeply estranged family members, who at first glance, have little chance of re-establishing communication with one another.
This is an original, quietly powerful first movie by Patrick Wang. A
true work of art, showing the power of moral justice over legal
justice. The climactic scene in the 'courtroom' is amazing. Joey's
achingly simple openness is how I want to be. I didn't find it
political, or PC or non-PC. It's just (just! how rare) a story about
some good people having to resolve important conflicts.
If I have a criticism it is that the sound was muddy and there was a little too much 'sound design'...footsteps, table settings, etc. were much too noticeable; voices not so clear.
And yes, it could have been a little tighter in the first half - somewhat slow.
But these are minor cavils about a wonderful film
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