Giomatti Manzoni (Robert De Niro) is a husband and father and once respected head of an American mafia clan, only now he and his family find themselves relocated to France under a witness protection scheme. While mafia hitmen look for them, surveillance teams see that the socially dysfunctional family cannot blend into their surroundings.
There’s only so much one can say about Besson’s recent little dive into black comedy territory. Some might argue that others have done this idea better, far better (both in film and in television) and parallels can be drawn to existing work, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The Family is a short affair, idling through high school angst, nuclear family and household dilemma cliches without much purpose other than through a lens of often unbridled psychopathy.
That said though, I liked it. Tommy Lee Jones is the officer in charge of Giomatti’s incarceration, and the man’s granite-hard, stony grimace is at full force here as he reluctantly tries to temper an unhinged and violence-prone De Niro to lay low. The family’s kids, Warren (John D’Leo) and Belle (Dianna Agron) potentially steal the show despite their development initially going through some of the oldest High School stereotypes around. And Michelle Pfeiffer, well who doesn’t like Michelle Pfeiffer in their films?
There is something intriguing and amusing about what must be a strong and very capable family (be it an overreacting and violent family!) trapped in some benign social purgatory!
It is a slow burn film towards an exciting conclusion, and that perhaps is its undoing. While it does crack some good black humour with how these mafia-born individuals (both adult and child!) deal with completely mundane problems, I did feel like I was in a waiting room, waiting for the inevitable.
The Family doesn’t excel at one or the other; a black comedy or a straight out mafia story, it feels downplayed and while that is a boon in making the brief carnage seem intense by comparison, it doesn’t quite go full comedy. Full unorthodox.
But like I said, I enjoyed it. It was a simple, violent and overall watchable film without any problems but without any real selling points.
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As much as I adore Michelle Pfeiffer I’ve held off from watching “The Family” but after reading your article I think I might pick it up on DVD.
It does sadden me more than a little to see the decline of De Niro and Pfeiffer’s fortunes over recent years. I’ve grown up watching Michelle and even though we’ve both got older, she remains transcendent. Somehow her recent roles feel like someone’s put a lampshade on the brightest light in the room.
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Great metaphor there for Pfeiffer. You’re right, especially for De Niro, I have no idea what’s happening with his career right now having started out as such a powerhouse actor.
The Family isn’t a bad movie by any means, its just a simple story and quirky with its sense of humour so it is decent but doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Tommy Lee Jones is one of my long time favourite actors, so having him with De Niro and Pfeiffer was nice to see as well.
Thanks for the comment!