SXSW Review: Family


I sat next to a juggalo during my screening of Family.

That may tell you all you need to know about the film, but if it does you’d be missing out on the core message of the movie. Whether the message was delivered in any meaningful way is far more important than the juggalos.

He was a pretty cool guy, by the way.

Director: Laura Steinel
Rated: TBD
Release Date: TBD

Family is in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine, a film about finding oneself and accepting that we’re all different, but with comedy and touching moments, except that where Little Miss Sunshine was charming and unique, Family feels far more standard. Kate (Taylor Schilling) is a VP at some company that does something, and she has forsaken her personal life in order to achieve her goals of career success. She mean to her co-workers, her family, and everyone else she meets to the point that you start to wonder if she is somewhere on the autism spectrum. One day she is tasked with taking care of her niece, Maddie (Bryn Vale) for a few days as her brother and sister-in-law can’t find anyone else in the whole world to do it. Maddie is a bit quirky, and her mother and father are forcing her to try to not be, while Kate has no idea how to take care of her. Eventually juggalos show up.

The comedy in Family can be pretty good. When Kate is being inconsiderate and outspoken in the beginning she drops some fantastic lines. There’s a few call outs of obnoxious people in the world that are downright hilarious. The problem is that as the movie, and her character, open up the good comedy drops away, and the film’s drama can’t pick up the slack. By the end of the film we’re in a pretty standard conclusion for movies like these where Maddie runs away (to a juggalo concert), and Kate has to track her down, simultaneously learning a life lesson about family.

You’ve basically seen this all before, and the movie doesn’t do anything to really pull it out of that territory. By pulling in juggalo culture in a big way as Maddie befriends some, it is attempting to show us all that even outcasts are human, but it never succeeds. Part of this is because it always feels like it’s still mocking juggalo culture while presenting it. The movie wants to tell us to be accepting of quirks, but never really accepts the ones its showing.

The performances are OK, but not enough to pull the film together. Kate McKinnon has a smaller role where she plays Kate McKinnon as a suburban housewife. She is neither funny nor integral to the film, but takes up some solid chunks of time. That balance between what works and what doesn’t runs throughout the film, and means the comedy never stands up fully. 

The biggest issue, of course, is just that you’ve seen Family a million times before. The trope of an overworked man or woman finding out the life is more than just the job doesn’t become fresh because you threw some juggalos into the mix. Family might be able to warm your heart a bit, but it’s not different enough to truly affect you.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.