by Dustin P. Anderson
The death of the youngest brother in the Burwood family brings together all members in an attempt to see that their brother is laid to rest… OK, here’s the thing. I could tell you all the synopsis as a lead up to this movie review, but I am pretty sure that everyone reading this has seen a movie with a similar synopsis. This movie is basically Sweet Home Alabama, This is Where I Leave You, The Royal Tenenbaums, or many others. It’s been done dozens of times over, and I think what we all really want to know is if this movie differed from the other movies at all.
The short answer to this question is: no. This film did bring some interesting things to the table, but in the end it was another cliché version of the movie most people in the world have seen at least once. The main problem I see here is that the creators are trying to spin too many plates at once. They have a gay brother who is a psychiatrist, his boyfriend who is a drug-addicted Hawaiian, the little sister who is timid, the boyfriend of the little sister who is overly attached to the little sister, the ex-boyfriend of the little sister who is a jerk, the eldest brother who is also a jerk, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the eldest brother who thinks she knows everything (as most fifteen-year-olds do), the once-absentee father who is trying to bring his family together, and the hippie nurse. See how all of those characters can probably be pushed aside given an hour and twenty-minute run time? As interesting as some of the characters could be, they never really get a chance to shine. I really wanted to know more about the gay brother who was a psychiatrist, but he didn’t get nearly as much screen time as his boyfriend did. They sacrificed a character with potential for a character that was meant to be comic relief, and it didn’t work out well.
It is not only the characters who suffer from this problem; this movie also has a plethora of different platforms to stand on. In the short span of this film they try to cover abortion, gay rights, drug abuse, and a couple more hot-button topics that will remain secret so as not to reveal any spoilers. The funny part is that none of these platforms are actually the movie’s moral. No, the moral to this story is (as always) family togetherness. If they were making these plot-supporting devices, and they covered them with a bit more length, I could see why they were there. The thing is that they are used as the entire personality of certain characters. For example, at no point should I have to be told, in dialog, that someone is gay in this day and age. Doing so makes the point obvious, and thus the thing you are trying to sell loses its value. Points are best made in a film when they are hidden in subtext. If you beat people over the head with your morals, it starts to put on the guise of an after-school special.
The way this movie was shot was the living definition of mediocre. There was no breath of life given to the shots I saw; it was all just the same close-ups and wide pan shots. More to the point, it all made this movie feel like this was the director’s first piece. Not only was it shot poorly; it was shot like the director was trying to emulate someone in his field with no distinguishing characteristics. The way these shots blended with the music made it come together like someone could feel something during the scene, if the music used wasn’t completely contrived as well. Honestly, how many times do I have to hear the same key being played on a piano until I get that this is supposed to be a sad moment?
The acting here varied since all of the actors present held in their emotions until their character was supposed to get the most screen time. In the argument scenes all of the actors were at the top their game, but when the story needs to unfold, all of the actors started to get lazy. The standout of laziness in this was Sarah Hyland; at no point could she convey emotion, and at no point did I feel like I could empathize with her. The one shining gem in this was Steve Howey; he got what his character was supposed to be, and portrayed it very well, although even he was faulty when trying to convey the more Hawaiian parts of his character.
As this comes to a close, I guess I can say that this movie tried so hard, but maybe a little too hard. If it picked fewer public issues to address, and maybe had a bit more time to flesh out those characters, my opinion might have been higher. Unless you have an absolute need to see these types of movies, I would stay away.