If I had done my homework, I would not be writing this review as I would not have seen this movie. Perhaps at least I can save some of you from the same grief….
Released this past week by Relativity Media, The Family starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer, about a Mafia enforcer and his family in the Witness protection program, had the potential to be very entertaining. Unfortunately it fell very far short of this potential despite it’s all-star cast, and catchy story line. The main character (played by DeNiro) is a sadistic killer whom the audience is invited to relate to as a “family man” who is just trying to do the right thing. After all not only does he really care for his family but he is funny and engaging. And somehow in the entertainment world almost anything said or done with humour is okay. Even repeated profanity, swearing and brutal gratuitous violence and repeated cold-blooded murder is okay when humour is employed. Of course if you have some problem with this you are just brushed off as not having a sense of humour. I know, I have no sense of humour at all when it comes to these sorts of things.
The f— word is used in this movie about 40 times according to Plugged in http://www.pluggedin.ca( the Focus on the Family Movie review site). This is a site I highly recommend if you want the facts about a movie before you expend time and money. Anyhow I lost count of the f-words used, as what struck me as completely odd was that in the movie saying the f- word repeatedly was extolled as almost a family tradition (used generously by the parents and children) and an excellent means of communicating a range of human emotions. Words fail me when I think of anyone believing that f—this or that lends itself to excellent communication rather being an example of anything other than an astonishingly limited vocabulary.
And if the violence and swearing isn’t enough though, it gets better. In this movie you have a mother reminding her teen-aged daughter to use a condom when the daughter mentions that she has a crush on a teacher. First there is something very wrong with the apparent acceptability of a student engaging in a sexual relationship with a teacher, even if he is a younger , college age teacher. Secondly there is this really crass attitude of the mother (as she tells of losing her virginity in a church with De Niro’s character) which is countered by a daughter who rightly believes that she should save herself only for the one she truly loves. Incidentally the daughter also shows some profound wisdom when she tells some boys who try to take advantage of her that they should not treat women that way as “women are their future”. This truth is somewhat lost in a screenplay that has her beating one of the boys to unconsciousness with a tennis racquet. But getting back to her crush on the teacher, unfortunately the daughter is driven to the point of suicide as she gives her heart and body to a man who does not receive the greatness of that gift as anything more than a fleeting “moment”. She knows in her heart that the language of the body in sexual intimacy should mean total commitment and love, and she is right. Unfortunately she is under the illusion that sex will bring her the true love she desires. Her own mother and the man she loves offer nothing more than a flimsy condom to protect her heart and body from the devastating pain caused by this sadly common misapprehension. I guess it would be pretty unpopular, when sex in the movies is often viewed as recreational, to suggest that the true love she desires would only be found within the parameters of total commitment or marriage.
Oh and one more thing, to add insult to injury. The Catholic church is portrayed very negatively. The mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) goes to church to pray for her family–as she recognizes their need for God but feels uncomfortable in attending Mass. (So far so good.) The priest, noticing her frequent prayer invites her to confession. (Again, this is a good thing.) Unfortunately, she receives the sacrament only to be asked to leave the church as she and her family are described by the priest as the “spawn of Satan”. Thus while preaching the sanctity of the confessional, forgiveness and acceptance but practicing something quite different, the Church is painted with a very hypocritical face.
Hollywood has hit a new low with this family. The Family is rated 14A in Canada and R in the U.S. Unfortunately, with this Canadian rating the theatre was filled with families and young people. Perhaps they were fooled like me. How could a movie about a family–especially a “quirky” Mafia family–be all that bad? Do yourself a favour, invoke your own ‘family protection program’ and miss this one.