If you have ever bought apples and oranges you know it is in our nature to compare things. These days it may be done a little too often, prompting an even bigger hunger for originality.
I was guilty of this as soon as I watched the trailer for Family Games in preparation to watch it and write this engaging review (this was said out of humor not narcissism).
Funny Games is a movie that left a major impression on me the first time I watched it….. and every viewing since it continues to surprise.
When I first heard of Family Games I was immediately hoping it would be similar to Funny Games. Besides a similar sounding title, they both have a relative tone, snappy dialogue and strong cinematography to help keep a contained film appealing.
Family Games was not Funny Games, it was its own animal and did not disappoint. Family Games is about a woman named Sloane, played with zeal by Megan Boone (The Blacklist (TV), My Bloody Valentine) and her boyfriend Barrett, portrayed by Derek Cecil (House Of Cards (TV), Banshee (TV)) who visit her family home and clash with her father and mother-in-law.
Megan’s dad Roan is performed with stoic honesty by Larry Bryggman (Die Hard With A Vengeance, Spy Game). He is a man in the traditional sense, the kind Sam Peckinpah held in high esteem. Roan was a soldier, served in Germany he tells Derek while he holds a rifle during a hunting trip.
The mother-in-law, Kathryn, played by Alison Fraser (Happy (TV), Happyish (TV)) is a survivor in her own way. In an early scene that shows how perfectly written this story is, we see Megan and her mother-in-law alone for the first time. They are in the kitchen preparing dinner and quickly an argument boils over.
Without spoiling it with details, this scene is all about how people close to you and with intimate knowledge can use words as weapons. Guilt is spread, insults are dished out and threats are made.
This is all done while Sloane wields a kitchen knife. So it begins, and from then on the games this family plays are biting and unrelenting.
Though it is hard to pin down, Family Games is a Dark Comedy with a dramatic foundation. This is a story about four people, full of characterization and depth.
Much like the great films based on a social satire stage play, take Carnage and Hurlyburly for example, Family Games rests on the power of its prose and actors working at the top of their game.
Dare I compare it to the Mike Nichols classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, like that film, Family Games is well crafted without being over stylized with its visual approach.
This movie and the artists who made it, realize that these characters are the draw, with a steady technique every action that is made, each line thrown down is heightened. Symbolism and subtlety are inherent to Family Games.
In one scene Sloane insists on playing a certain cello for the group which created a whole lot more than music. Even the stories lush setting of rural Westchester County, New York is not glorified, in order to reflect this story of loss, spite and regret.
Even the choice of character names are significant. Sloane and Roan, the only two characters who are related by blood, have similar sounding names.
Family Games is a must watch for those who are not afraid to explore the casual darkness and depths the woods of the human mind can take.
The ending of the movie finishes with a shudder and not an explosion of the tone it built over its run time. I hope you get to see this movie and form your own comparisons.
Curt Wiser is the Writer, Director of the Suspense movie Cam-Girl. As an artist he loves to pass on a kind word about other movies and strives to be active member of any filmmaking family.