Ever go to a new friend's house for dinner only to discover that every single person in that house is upset about something -- or somethings -- that happened yesterday or last week or fifteen years ago? And they're all still fighting about it? And they don't care who hears them do it? And the longer they fight, loudly and openly, right in front of you, the less any of it make sense?
Well, if you've never experienced that in person, there's this new movie out that'll approximate that pleasure. Okay, "new" isn't exactly the right word. It first appeared at film festivals in 2008. It was released theatrically in Indonesia that year, too. In 2009 it got a DVD release in Hungary and an Australian TV premiere in 2010. And now, finally, this American indie starring Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson, Carrie Anne Moss and Hayden Panettiere is getting its theatrical release in the United States.
It's about a family. And they have problems. Willem Dafoe is a mean dad. Julia Roberts is a nice mom. Ryan Reynolds is their tormented son (he's grown up and they're wearing old-age makeup or seen in flashback). Emily Watson, Carrie Anne Moss and Hayden Panettiere are pretty upset, too. Why are they all so angry and miserable? The answers are mysterious.
And the reason the answers are mysterious probably has something to do with how the version we're getting in this country is now, after what appear to be some brutal edits, about 88 minutes long. Arguments change the subject with this family but never really seem to have beginnings or endings. They're also never explained. Scenes of Reynolds taking his niece and nephew fishing with fireworks are juxtaposed with flashbacks of the younger Reynolds experiencing pointless emotional abuse dished out by Dad. These moments are sandwiched in between more present-day arguments that bookend a bizarre comic relief moment where Reynolds has sex in another room at his own mother's funeral. You following this? No? It doesn't matter.
Because just when you're hitting your tolerance breaking point for these people and their nonstop bellyaching and yelling and baffling hatred for one another, the equally baffling reconciliation kicks in. What just happened? You'll never know. Because then it's over, taking all its secrets with it until a director's cut DVD pops up someday soon. Or maybe in another three years. It's kind of like The Room but with famous actors. All that's missing is a scene where they put on tuxedos and toss around a football.