Tragedy meets melodrama meets the fearless hip '90s, following the Burnham family as they deal with their first-world problems. Lester and Carolyn (Spacey and Bening) are getting older, and both are trying in their own way to hang on to the last moments of what each thinks is the prime of their lives; while their teenage daughter Jane (Birch) is having issues of her own, dealing with finding her identity and not feeling pretty enough next to her "friend" Angela (Suvari). Neighboring Fits family (consisting of Bentley, Cooper and Janney) work their way into the mix because the son is stalking Jane. A film that speaks to those who have seen a midlife crisis, and is still entertaining to those who have it to look forward to. Oscar-winner is entertaining right from the get-go, and is an experience as flawless as a rose upon first viewing. However, after you've seen it a few times, the rose begins to wilt, unmasking contradictory characters and inexplicable events that unfold just to appease its themes of confinement, conformity, redemption and sexuality—why does Lester lecture Carolyn about materialism right after HE's the one that bought a Pontiac Firebird? Why didn't writer Ball or director Mendes at least try to make Bening's character slightly redeemable? All the many other questions to raise require spoilers, but the list goes on... Hard to completely hate because it's easy to understand why so many people like it.
★★½ (out of four)
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