Dark comedy turns a kidnapping into a sweet coming-of-age story.
|“Family Weekend” is a dark comedy about a 16-year-old girl, Emily (Olesya Rulin), who takes her family into her own hands to turn them into a normal family. But it’s not going to be easy; Samantha Smith-Dungy (Kristin Chenoweth) is a workaholic mom, Duncan Dungy (Matthew Modine) is hippie artist dad, and her brother and sister are maladjusted kids who think they are perfectly well-adjusted.||2013 |
Directed by: Benjamin Epps
Screenplay by: Matt K. Turner
Starring: Olesya Rulin, Matthew Modine and Kristin Chenoweth
Emily takes after her mother and plots and schedules the success of her teenage life. One of which is her plan to win a jump rope competition, but her family isn’t there to watch her compete because they can’t think of anything beyond themselves. At the beginning, the film works because we care for Emily, we feel bad for her, and it’s time to whip these idiots into shape. Emily is a smart, competitive, determined and hard-working teenage girl. She's a little abrasive, but compared to her family she deserves sympathy.
She talks her brother and sister into taking her side, and they take their parents hostage and hold them captive inside their own house until they learn to think, talk and act like real parents. It sounds juvenile but it doesn’t seem so bad in execution because Emily has a plan for how to reach maturity. Any concrete plan for an abstract idea is bound to be hilarious.
Surprising, or rather unsurprisingly, things don’t go according to plan and Emily has made drastic changes to a drastic undertaking. I definitely could have used with a few less detours in Emily’s strategy as it hurts her credentials as a sympathetic leading character, which is already on shaky ground, what with the whole kidnapping her parents idea and all.
Things then get dramatic which follows Emily losing her sympathy, but the comedy gets back on track with a happy medium between her current family and her ideal family and a resolution which is un-Hollywood but still uplifting. There’s also a joke (which I will leave unspoiled as I think it’s one of the better ones I have seen) that gives a resolution to her brother’s dissatisfied life that is funny, original and meaningful all in one.
All in all, “Family Weekend” works well as dark comedy indie even with a few dramatic and comedic missteps because the beginning and ending are clever enough to keep it cute and entertaining. The sweet uplifting nature actually balances out the dark comedy premise very well.