The Family Fang
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Written by: screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the book by Kevin Wilson
Nicole Kidman (Annie Fang)
Jason Bateman (Baxter Fang)
Christopher Walken (Caleb Fang)
Maryann Plunkett (Camille Fang)
Kathryn Hahn (young Camille Fang)
Jason Butler Harner (young Caleb Fang)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (young Annie Fang)
Jack McCarthy (young Baxter Fang)
Annie and Baxter are the adult children of the concept artists Caleb and Camille Fang. Mired in controversy the husband and wife team used their offspring from an early age in dangerous and off-kilter public performances that the public was never aware is happening around them. Now living their own lives as a semi-successful author and an actress whose career is starting to wane the siblings have left their parents in the past as they believe that their current problems stem from their unusual upbringing. After Baxter has a mishap with a full-size potato gun their parents visit and the four clash repeatedly culminating with Caleb and Camille leaving their children to get away for a few days. However, the police are in touch soon after to tell them that their parents have gone missing with all the evidence seemingly pointing to foul-play but could it be one final art performance piece.
This is film that enters some very well-worn movie territory. The parents that ruin your life. With a cast most producers would sell their grandparents for and a fine dramatic premise surely The Family Fang could not fail.
For me, it was a little from column A and little from column B. You have to hand it to Nicole Kidman her choice of starrers is eclectic and with Bateman taking on the directing reins and as well as a role he seems to be leading away from his more comic roles. He does a fine job. Walken and Hahn are old hands at this and probably hardly needed any directing.
So having said that, this should be a great film. But something was missing and I can’t explain what. Somewhere deep in the soul of the film that little spark that makes a standard film great was missing. It was impossible not feel sorry for Annie and Baxter but after what they had been put through, whether they agreed it was ‘art’ (they didn’t seem to) or not, you could not help feeling that they would not have anything to do with their parent whatsoever. Even America has a social services programme for children that are mistreated and whose parents make them commit illegal acts.
The story and performances kept me watching with the use of flashbacks in the form of a never used documentary ‘The Family Fang’ being a clever touch but I feel that you get out of the story what you bring to it.
For instance, I sort of get Caleb’s take on art, I truly do, but to take it as far as he does in the film leaves me cold. I could feel the pretentiousness washing over me as I watched. So, in the end, I couldn’t connect with them, I felt they was more of the touch of idiots about them and my tolerance for such people in real life would be lower than it was for this film. Therefore the treatment of the children just became abusive the more the story progressed.
If you want to be blunt this is about two selfish a-wipes who messed up their children permanently for art. How you feel about that is going to be how you feel about this film from the start.
The Family Fang is probably worth a watch but you really have to be in the right mood that’s for sure.