Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Price of Family: Movie Review

So much dysfunction, so little comedy.
The Price of Family is an Italian dysfunctional family comedy, but it’s a real struggle to see where the comedy is in the dysfunction. Two empty nesters are distraught when their adult children move out of their family home and get jobs. The kids don’t come home for the funeral of an old distant relative and all hell breaks loose (this is a slight exaggeration on my part, but their reactions are far from normal).   2022

Directed by: Giovanni Bognetti

Screenplay by: Giovanni Bognetti

Starring: Christian De Sica, Angela Finocchiaro

A quick warning for readers before we get into the rest of the review, this is a Christmas movie. Released in Italy in December with the title “Natale a tutti i costi” (which translates to “Christmas at All Costs”), it is then released in January for the rest of the world. It’s not a good movie regardless of the month, but it’s going to be harder to find an audience in January.

The parents decide to fake an inheritance of 600 Million Euros, and this works. The kids miraculously start making it home to try and get their cut of the millions. My issues are numerous but let’s start with that dysfunction. The parents can barely exist like functioning humans if they can’t spend all day obsessing over and belittling their kids. The comedy is obvious, but it’s not funny. These are so far from reasonable adults that the nugget of truth necessary for comedy just isn’t there.

The kids as they’re starting their adult life away from their parents find themselves in undesirable situations. Emilio (the son) works for a boss who spends the entire working day insulting him, berating him, and making ridiculous demands of him. The parents see what Emilio’s job is like and have two thoughts: 1. “He should put up with it because he’s making 2000 euros a month”; and 2. “That’s unfair – it’s a lot more enjoyable when we’re the ones insulting him and berating him every day.”

Alessandra (the daughter) moves in with an older man who has his own dental practice and has hired her as his secretary. He provides her job, he provides her with a place to live, she is completely within this shadow of an older man who has significant control over her. Her parents have two thoughts: 1. “When are you going to give us grandbabies?”; and 2. “She’s so incompetent that she’s not going to be able to go anywhere in life anyways.” (Not actual quotes, but close enough and directly implied).

The parents don’t give a shit that their kids are unhappy. The kids are so completely clueless that it’s unsurprising they have gotten themselves into these awful situations and are unable to observe what’s affecting those around them. How stupid does this movie think the audience is if we’re supposed to find this funny?

The themes are supposed to be about how money doesn’t buy happiness, but it takes some bizarre directions to get there. Nobody is happy with or without real or fake money, so there’s no actual lesson here. Maybe call your parents before they decide to fake a multi-million inheritance, but if your parents are the types of people to fake a multi-million inheritance just run away and don’t bother calling them anyways.

I don’t even think this is a ‘capitalism is bad’ movie. The characters are arguably happiest when they think they have money. And the parents are spending money that they really shouldn’t be spending in order to keep up the ruse – and they keep up the ruse for the entire movie save the last five minutes. The Price of Family is a confused movie, that has centered everything around how funny a dysfunctional family is, but it’s not funny. It is a very unpleasant watch.

Available on Netflix (worldwide)

Something Similar But Different:

  The Perfect Family (2022) - A family-based rom-com which turns into a bittersweet comedy about gender roles across different generations.

  Accidental Family (2022) - A misguided comedy about a woman who fakes being a relative to get her crush to fall in love with her.

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