Saturday, March 23, 2019

A grand edifice of - laughable - deception

Miranda Bailey’s You Can Choose Your Family is one of those comedies that not only sparks almost continuous laughs but creates an eerie almost disturbing feeling at the same time. It stars comic Jim Gaffigan as Frank, a man who has two families. Yes, he’s a bigamist. But not intentionally. You see, many years ago, recently married Frank had an affair, from which a child was born. Supposedly being responsible – at least in his words - he decided to remain loyal to that “family” as well as his, well, original one. Over the years the families grew with more kids and Jim, yes, continued being spouse and dad to both. He did this by creating an elaborate scheme of deception. He would tell both spouses (and families) he was out of town – often on lengthy business trips to Japan – when in fact he’d be travelling not all that far to spend time with his other family. How he could maintain this edifice of lies is astounding but he somehow manages and became rather good at it. This house of cards comes down in a shattering moment, all provoked by the son of one of his families, Philip (Logan Miller) who goes on spring break to just the town where Frank’s other family is located. Philip learns the deception and tries to blackmail his dad, then becomes an accomplice. And just when you think Frank’s luck will continue, all is exposed before both spouses in a catastrophic moment. Bailey, who has long has a career in film as producer of such quirky pictures as Swiss Army Man (2016) and The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), told a post-screening Q & A at the Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) that she loves “to push people’s buttons.” Her films are “funny and provocative” at the same time. She indeed pushes the buttons in this film, with a zany performance by Gaffigan and all-around good acting by the largely child and teenage cast. This, folks, is comedy that will leave a knot at the pit of your stomach.

Meanwhile, during the Q & A, Bailey and You Can Choose star Samantha Mathis (as one of Frank’s wives) told of a new female-oriented website created to be a counterpart to such movie review aggregated sites as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It features women critics and is called Bailey spoke of how film criticism is largely dominated by males. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just that being male, men may see a film differently from women.. 

The Gasparilla International Film Festival continues until Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

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