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Perfect Family (2012)
Friday, May 4, 2012
Mature thematic material.
Emily Deschanel, Kathleen Turner, Jason Ritter, Michael McGrady, Richard Chamberlain
Claire Riley, Paula Goldberg
A devoutly Catholic wife and mother has been nominated for one of the church's top awards. She goes about trying to prove she has the "perfect" family, refusing to accept them for who they are.
Perfect Family (2012) | Review
Facade versus Reality
In The Perfect Family Eileen Cleary seems to live at the church. She goes to confession daily. She helps in worship. She takes food to shut-ins. Now she has been nominated as the parish's Catholic Woman of the Year—against her lifelong rival. It will all come down to how well she can impress the Bishop with her family. Ah, there's the rub. Her son is breaking up with his wife and having an affair with a manicurist. Her daughter is pregnant and getting ready to be married—to her girlfriend. Her husband, a recovering alcoholic, is supportive, but there's only so much he can put up with.
This is very broad comedy that relies on stereotype and very little understanding of church life. There is hypocrisy. There is ambition. There is conniving. And in the end there is a bit of grace.
The central premise of the story is the difference between the façade of Eileen's life and the underlying reality. This is a world in which everyone seems to have no clue as to what goes on around them. Eileen doesn't seem to know any of the things going on with her family. No one seems to know about her closet skeletons.
It is later in the film that we really see what is going on internally with Eileen. In an early scene where she makes her confession, she mentions fear of going to hell. Why? She may be a ditz, but there is nothing terrible about her. When the prospect of the award is raised, what really seems to interest her is the prize of absolution. Eventually we discover there is something in her past that she has never been able to forgive herself for and that it is only by facing it that she will be able to be open to the problems in the life of her family. It is when she finally confesses that past sin (although not involving the Sacrament of Reconciliation) that she and her family begin to find healing.
It is too bad that more attention wasn't paid to the religion reflected in the film. It pretty much lost my respect with an early scene involving the Eucharist. Things are so out of line with what church is like (such as giving absolution as a prize) that I got the impression that this is an outsider looking into the church. When that happens it is very difficult for the humor to work—either because there is too much not understood or because the right to make fun of what is there hasn't been earned.
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