“Family” falls into the genre of movies that feature a socially inept individual who wants absolutely nothing to do with children suddenly being forced to take care of a kid for a certain period of time. However, unlike most other movies in that genre, it acknowledges that epiphanies are often small and that a taste of parenthood does not suddenly change someone’s life.
Granted, the trajectory of the film’s story is exactly as you might expect. Our socially inept protagonist does experience some growth as a result of her brush with responsibility. But that growth comes in the shape of values as opposed to an entire lifestyle, which is a way more realistic approach without sacrificing any of the heart.
In “Family,” Taylor Schilling plays a career-focused woman named Kate whose brash attitude keeps relationships at arm’s length, making her an outcast in her own right. When her estranged brother calls asking her to babysit her tween niece Maddie (Bryn Vale), Kate reluctantly agrees to help.
However, babysitting overnight unexpectedly turns into a week and Kate’s life spins into chaos. As Maddie reveals stories of being bullied and of wanting to run away and be a Juggalo, the two form a unique bond—illustrating that family can be found in all different forms.
“Family” never feels forced or overly cutesy. Instead, it maintains its audacious attitude from its first scene through its off-the-wall finale at an Insane Clown Posse concert. Schilling is delightfully abrasive while Vale nails the weird kid role but their characters would not be so effective if it were not for writer/director Laura Steinel’s smart-yet-hilarious screenplay.
Steinel has created a film that does not try to make us believe that being a guardian is all about stopping kids from throwing canned food in grocery stores (thanks “Big Daddy”). She shows us that it is often way more complicated than that. And while only a small segment of the population has to deal with a tween girl wanting to be a Juggalo, like the one in “Family,” an awful lot of them are challenged with children who do not fit in for one reason or another.
Therein lies the extraordinary heart of “Family.” Kate’s methods may be less-than-ideal but she certainly sees something that Maddie’s parents cannot and she takes steps to do something about it. If only more parents would open their eyes to see their own children’s eccentricities this world may be a much better place.
Or maybe the world would be populated with a lot of people wearing creepy clown makeup and Burger King capes. There really is no way that we could possibly know for sure.
At any rate, “Family” tells a heartwarming story and boasts a positive message while also being a whole lot of fun. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout the movie that are made even funnier because they are all too relatable. Pair the flick with last year’s “Eighth Grade” for a nice double feature that will appeal to all ages.