By: Matt Conway & Henry J. Fromage –
The Family Fang is another in a long line of dysfunctional family dramas with an indie twist. Unlike a lot of indies that feel quite contrived and by the numbers, Family Fang presents a rather unique set-up. Growing up raised by parents who used them as part of an elaborate art project, Annie and Baxter Fang return home and begin to gather the pieces of their parents’ sudden disappearance.
This is the next directorial effort from the wonderfully talented Jason Bateman. While he has had a great deal of success as a comedic actor, his first directorial effort was the mean-spirited and misguided Bad Words. Thankfully, though, Bateman shows a great deal of growth with Fang, a drama that packs a great deal of honesty and heart.
The Family Fang is at its core a tale of how family can both twist and strengthen pretty much everyone. Bateman and Kidman do a great job showing organically how two kids with such a simultaneously repressive and structureless childhood might turn out. Kidman’s Annie is a successful actress who doesn’t say ‘no’ as much as she should, because she’s certain if she maintains what she considers control of a situation, she can take anything. Bateman’s Baxter is a fitfully successful writer who doesn’t say ‘no’ as much as he should, because he’s certain if he maintains what he considers control of a situation, he can take anything.
Meanwhile, their parents have never stopped their confrontational “art projects”, but they’re not the same without the kids. When they return home, refusal to take part in their latest stunt is followed by the parents saying they’re taking a weekend away… and then their car is found with blood smeared all about.
Bateman directs confidently and does an excellent job weaving in flashbacks of their seemingly equally fun and traumatizing childhood. What emerges is a portrait of a father who’s not nearly as free-spirited as he seems. Christopher Walken gives his best performance in many a year as a man who’s always had it his way, and will never empathize with those who have to tag along with whatever he decides to do, however detrimental to the rest. He’s a father figure many will recognize, and, like Annie and Baxter, may just have to come to accept.
Maryann Plunkett does a great job as the put-upon modern-day version of their mother, who’s probably given up the most to her husband’s/family’s “art”. It would have been nice to see her give her husband a bit of a comeuppance, or get somewhere near her due, though.
The Family Fang is an examination of a very uniquely dysfunctional family, and maybe how it is to be expected that all families fuck you up… at least a bit.
The Family Fang (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each performance art piece
Take a Drink: for each indication of deep dysfunction
Take a Drink: whenever Christopher Walken is a dick
Take a Drink: for catch phrases/bon mots
Do a Shot: whenever you wince