Films I Neglected To Review: True Stories?By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/27/19 00:24:27
Please enjoy short reviews of "Family," "JT LeRoy" and "Stockholm."
For all of its talk about following your own path and whatnot, ''Family'' is a film that seems almost obscenely eager to follow the formulas laid down by predecessors like ''Little Miss Sunshine.'' Other than the Juggalo stuff--which doesn’t really add much of anything of substance to the proceedings and which feels more like an ICP PSA than anything else--every single element seems to have taken directly from a screenwriting template and not even its aggressively quirky nature can take away from that overly familiar feeling. That said, while the film as a whole does not amount to much, it isn’' too painful to watch thanks to the efforts of its game cast. Schilling, for example, is playing a character that never feels like anything other than a writer's construct but she still manages to wring more laughs out of the increasingly hackneyed material than one might expect. More importantly, she and Vale develop a nice chemistry in their scenes together that make you wish that they could break out of the narrative rut and go off on their own tangent. There are also amusing supporting turns from Brian Tyree Henry as an understanding karate instructor and Kate McKinnon as the neighborhood tyrant-next-door. These performances are all good and amusing but they never quite keep you from having the sense that ''Family'' is less a movie and more like an extended sitcom pilot that did not get picked up for any number of very good reasons.
While the sheer weirdness of the story may be of some interest to viewers who are going into it with no prior knowledge of the whole strange saga, those with some familiarity with the details are likely to find the film to be a strangely frustrating misfire thanks to a couple of key flaws that cripple it right from the start. The first problem is that the film was co-written by Knoop and was based on her memoir of the affair, inevitably leading to a skewed perspective that attempts to position that Knoop was an equal contributor to the creation of JT LeRoy in regards to how that fake persona helped to guide and inspire fans who were going through their own personal identity issues but was a complete innocent when it came to all of the immoral and illegal details. (Yes, the 2016 documentary ''Author: The JT LeRoy Story' told the story primarily from Albert's perspective but she came off so awkwardly there that the film felt oddly balanced after all.) The other problem with the film is that it doesn’t really have anything new or interesting to add to the story to warrant another retelling--considering that we are at a point when the discussion about who has the moral, ethical and literary right to tell the stories of specific subcultures is of particular interest, the way that it shies away from that perspective is especially frustrating. The performances from Stewart and Dern are good, as are the supporting turns by Kruger (thought her character is undermined throughout by the fact that even though she is clearly supposed to be playing Asia Argento, who did make a movie out of LeRoy's ''The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things,'' she has been reconceived as a generic European starlet, presumably for legal reasons) and Courtney Love as a suspicious Hollywood producer, but they don’t go far enough to illuminate what drove these people to do what they did. ''JT LeRoy'' is a film that clearly hopes to go down as the final word on its particular and peculiar subject and if we are lucky, it will be.
Right at the start, writer-director Robert Budreau announces that ''Stockholm'' is based on a ''true but absurd'' story but never gets around to demonstrating why he felt a need to tell it. Instead, he seems more interested in treating the whole thing as some kind of mild farce that is more interested in the oddball period details than in the story proper. That is especially true in the case of Hawke's character, who is such an off-putting dope throughout that the entire notion of his captives siding with him, even subconsciously, seems like a joke more than anything else. The movie essentially gives him a pass for his misdeeds by positioning him as some kind of adorable holy fool in over his head but unlike, say, Al Pacino in the similarly themed ''Dog Day Afternoon,'' it completely fails in its attempt to place him in a convincingly sympathetic light. After a while, ''Stockholm'' itself begins to feel like an ordeal but it is unlikely that its victims--sorry, viewers--will wind up on its side by the time it concludes.
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