Film RadarFilm Radar


advertise with Film Radar
Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
May. 3, 2012 | 10:43 PM

Email Print


Where to begin a discussion about Kathleen Turner?  In BODY HEAT, Lawrence Kasdan’s steamy 1981 reworking of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, she served up a flawless femme fatale.  She pushed her onscreen sexual boundaries even further with Ken Russell’s willfully perverse CRIMES OF PASSION.  Not one to be pigeonholed,  for a while Turner also seemed to be checking off comic subgenres one by one.  She played a gold digging wife in the sublimely silly THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, traded zingers with Michael Douglas in ROMANCING THE STONE and got in touch with her inner sociopath in John Waters’ SERIAL MOM.  Turner could do it all, and then she suddenly seemed to disappear from screens.  She continued to work, but her dominance as a leading lady all but vanished.  Which brings us to THE PERFECT FAMILY, Turner’s first lead film role in over two decades, which serves as a potent reminder of how much her talent has been missed.

The set up for director Ann Renton’s film is simple.  Turner plays Eileen Cleary, who begins the story with the news that she’s been nominated for Catholic Woman of the Year.  This is complicated by the fact that she will be expected to show off her “perfect family” which includes a husband in AA, a lesbian daughter who’s expecting, and a soon to be divorced son.  She also faces some formidable competition in Agnes Dunn (Sharon Lawrence).  Agnes looks great on paper, but Eileen has a heart for her work, and clearly seems to be the people’s choice. What emerges is a portrait of a woman who’s forced to reexamine the beliefs she’s held sacred her whole life.

It’s not hard to understand why Turner accepted this role.  She’s never gotten to be the moral center of a film before, and she makes the most of it.  The script, by Paula Goldberg and Claire V Riley, feels a little too neatly choreographed at times, as when Eileen signs an anti gay adoption pact at her church even though her gay daughter is expecting, but there are plenty of scenes that ring true. 

Turner gets solid support from her fellow players, which range from relative newcomers like Emily Deschanel and Jason Ritter to veterans like Elizabeth Pena and Richard Chamberlain.  Seeing Chamberlain, who recently came out as gay, playing a bishop here adds an extra layer of complexity to this particular tale.  Director Renton mostly keeps the tone light, but the actors still manage to convey the strength of the Cleary family bond.

With Turner leading the way, the film is at its best in the way it confronts the difficulties of being a devout Catholic in 21st Century America.  After a hilarious sequence in which Eileen storms out of her daughter’s wedding to her female partner, we begin to see a gradual shift in Eileen’s world view.  Although brief, the scenes in which she discusses her frustrations with a young, liberal Catholic priest provide some of the film’s strongest moments.  THE PERFECT FAMILY is a modest film, but it still manages to sneak in a few observations on the efficacy of grace.

THE PERFECT FAMILY opens Friday, May 4th at the Laemmle Monica Fourplex in Santa Monica, and will also be available on demand.  Check local cable listings for availability.

First Comment:

  1. May02Hannah Hofmeister   Um how awesome is that?!  You weren’t deined a full ride you just had to wait a bit for the real one to come along. I’m glad you’re going to SMU, I hear more and more good things about it all the time!

    Posted by Shady on 10/28 at 10:08 AM