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TIFF's Most F***ed Up Families

The everyday bloody evil of a clan in Argentina or public event provocations via a performance art brood in New England? Here are two more TIFF films for your consideration that focus on deviant nuclear families.

The Clan (Argentina, Pablo Trapero)
This true story thriller is based on an infamous series of crimes in Argentina in which a seemingly respectable but cruel upper middle class family who kidnapped members of even wealthier families (some of whom they were actually friends with) for huge ransoms. The central characters are the patriach and his eldest son, a soccer star, who feels increasing guilt about their paterfamilias activities. As a result of the grim crimes, and the sick complicity of all the characters, this is often an unpleasant and chilling watch, but the performances are strong (particularly the father who is cooly sociopathic in his entitlement and manipulations) and it builds to a strong and shocking 'how did they film that?' finale. Unfortunately, for non-Argentine audiences,  the storytelling often assumes that you'll understand particulars which aren't well layed out such as dates, political environments and sidelined characters that are all clearly more significant to the happenings if you already know the story. B

Oscar Trivia Note: Argentina has not yet selected their Oscar submission for 2015 though this one seems likely since it's a big hit at home. They've been nominated at least once a decade since the 1970s winning for The Official Story (1985) and Secret in Their Eyes (2009, which gets an English language remake this next month with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the leading roles.) The Clan's popular director Pablo Trapero has been submitted twice before for Lion's Den (2008) and Carancho (2010) but neither were nominated. 

Release Note: According to IMDb, Twentieth Century Fox has US distribution rights though no US release date has been named.

Christopher Walken, Maryann Pluckett, Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman are The Family Fang

THE FAMILY FANG (US, Jason Bateman)
Some stories are not universal. This extremely specific dramedy is about two adult siblings Child A (Nicole Kidman) and Child B (Jason Bateman) who were raised by performance artists (Christopher Walken in a great bit of 'OF COURSE' casting and Maryann Plunkett who is the film's MVP as the mother who is always trying to pacify her excitable husband and excite her reluctant children). The children grew up in this mandatory performance environment as the stars of most of their parent's most famous pieces. We see them as children in elaborate flashbacks of their "art" which generally involved pranking the public somehow sometimes with mock arguments in public parks other times with more elaborate scarier setups like a faux bank robbery.  Naturally the kids are fucked up as adults, when the story begins but both are artists: Child A is an alcoholic movie star whose career is on the skids and Child B a novelist and the most "normal" of the family member though he has his own problems, like the inability to say no to really foolish dares and offers. [SORTA  SPOILER] It's a difficult film to describe as the tone shifts from oddly funny to darkly satiric and then just sad and dramatic as the sudden bloody disappearance of the parents has the actress angrily convinced that it's another performance piece and the novelist sadly convinced that their parents are gone for good. [/SORTA SPOILER] What sells the film through its tonal shifts and logical loopholes are smart and tetchy performances from both Kidman and Bateman, who read as both too close and not close enough in a weird act of sibling chemistry, and the film's strange sense of humor. It doesn't always nail it's more ambitious attempts to be about the emotional cost of art for artists but it's highly watchable and interesting. B

A Note for Kidmaniacs: I'll never figure out why they de-glam Kidman with a bad frumpy wig when she's actually playing a movie star and it's really disconcerting to see her take off a wig that looks like her normal Nicole Kidman hair in her first scene to reveal the characters real hair (also a wig) for the remainder of the film.

Release Note: The Family Fang has no distribution as of yet but it's only a matter of time with famouis actors in three of the four key roles and solid if unspectacular reviews. That said the topic makes this a rough sell so a smaller indie who relies on VOD if they get nervous about marketability seems more likely.

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Reader Comments (9)

Hopefully Fang works because Kidman and Bateman are Hollywood insiders. If they can't make that work, I forsee another dim mirror for Nicole. Her powers are weak.

September 22, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergr8ful

I read the book years ago when Nicole was first attached to do this so i'm pretty eager to see how it turns out.

September 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I love Pablo Trapero. He has made some of the best movies of this century, like El Bonaerense, Familia Rodante, Leonera and specially Carancho.

September 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Cal -- i regret to inform that this is the first Trapero I have seen.

September 23, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Don't forget Meryl, Nicole and Carey Mulligan on Graham Norton on Ocober 7. That is dream casting.

September 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

The casting in Family Fang sold it to me.

September 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

Um, that would be Tony Award winner Maryann Plunkett. Both of these sound fascinating. Everybody's reviews from TIFF are finally making me excited about the upcoming season. It sounds like we have some really interesting stuff to look forward to. Thanks for the coverage!

September 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

Family Fang is a strange (but apparently well-done) indie with no box office potential, therefore, It has no distributor. It will not "work" in the sense that it will not make money. It will not be released in theaters. All of NK's work nowadays is dim mirrors. Except for Photograph 51.

September 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

Hey Nat, The Clan's eldest son is a rugby star, not a soccer star. Rugby is popular among upper class families in Argentina.
And when I saw this movie, I thought exactly the same, it assumes lots of events in our history. I doubt many people will get the whole picture of what was happening in that time.
I even got lost with the flashbacks and flashfowards in the beginning.

October 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAgustin

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