Caleb and Camille Fang (played by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) are well-known and highly regarded performance artists who — in the 1970s — incorporated their children into their elaborate, high-risk pranks, causing chaos and mischief for the sake of art. The children, Annie and Baxter, now fully grown, have emancipated themselves, but still attribute their downward spirals to their unconventional childhoods. Annie (played by Nicole Kidman) receives a call from her brother Baxter (played by Jason Bateman), who has been shot in the ear. Baxter, being unable to fly, begs his sister to join him, as he will be under the irresponsible eye of his parents once again while his injury heals. The seemingly loving yet eccentric parents are ecstatic to have the family together again to resume and revive the Fang Family pranks. When Annie and Baxter are less than willing to abide, the parents tell the kids they are going away on a trip. Not long after, police arrive at the house to inform the kids that the car belonging to their parents has been found covered in blood, similar to the findings of several other homicides in the same location. The younger Fangs find themselves doing some deep investigations to figure out whether or not this is another elaborate prank, or if their parents really are missing.
Having a similar look and feel as Wes Anderson’s Tenenbaum family, The Family Fang is a delightfully dark and equal parts comedic, dramatic, and suspenseful depiction of a functioning yet dysfunctional family, but unlike the Tenenbaums, they still kinda like each other... for the most part. Jason Bateman plays both the role of the brother and the director of the film with finesse, and adequately shapes up to be as much of a quality director as he is a comedic actor. The movie, based on Kevin Wilson's bestselling novel of the same name, takes a hard look at what you expect from your family versus what you actually get, and whether or not you can live with it. In addition the movie questions art, and how far people will go for a good audience reaction. If you squint, there is even a feminist backstory on how far a woman will go to keep the family together, as well as a subtle lesson in letting go of childhood injustices that can affect us as adults.
When asked what he wanted his audience to take away from the film, Bateman responded, “The central and hopefully relatable theme of the film is that everybody has gone through the process where your parents become human. They become as flawed as you are. You become old enough and perceptive enough to see through the disguise that they know how to wear." Though this is only the second film of a hopefully long directorial career for Bateman, co-star Walken had only good thing to say. “He just so obviously seemed to know what he was doing…He is somebody to watch very carefully on sets.”
Walken himself is no stranger to the subject matter of the film: “[When I was] a young man, performance art happened all over the city. They don’t do that anymore. There would be a spontaneous theatre and I saw a lot of it. Often didn’t know what was going on, but a lot of people did that. I remember I walked into my bank once and there was some guy doing a show and I guess they took him out but he was there for a while and a lot of that happened.”
The Family Fang is in theatres now!
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Courtney Bissonette is a New York based writer and improv comedienne. She writes primarily about movies, pop cultures and feminist heroes. She gets along best with old people. She has seen more old movies than your grandma, probably. Salt from Salt n Pepa once took her Trick'r Treating. You can follow her on instagram at @gddamnitcourtney or twitter @courttette