A Family Thing

"OK"

A Family Thing Review


This review is not going to win me many new friends. Already, the gushing praise has begun, and it appears A Family Thing is going to be a regular Critic's Darling. I have little doubt that momentum will give the film the best reviews of the year to date, and I have an equal suspicion that few people are going to see it.

Best described as Driving Miss Daisy 2, A Family Thing is a way-way-melodramatic picture about an aging, backwards, racist, Arkansas hick, Earl Pilcher (Robert Duvall). Earl's mother, on her death bed, writes him a letter, telling Earl that in reality, she was not his mother at all, that his real mother was a black woman, and that she died having him in childbirth. Mom #2 implores him to seek out his half-brother in Chicago, for reasons never really explained.

Well, it'd be a really short movie if he didn't go, so he treks to the Windy City in his pickup and finds brother Ray (James Earl Jones). For two long hours (our time) they get to know each other, overcome their prejudices, and manage to thoroughly remind us of Driving Miss Daisy over and over and over.

This is obviously very familiar territory, and along with the fact that appears A Family Thing is nothing new, it's got a lot of strikes against it. First is the unfortunate title, of course, but the fundamental flaw with A Family Thing is that the movie is just stonkingly boring. Long (and I mean long) stretches of one-sided dialogue go on and on so much that you wonder if they're ever going to end. These scenes require enormous levels of concentration by the viewer, and for the payoff...hey, it's just regurgitated Driving Miss Daisy again! A poor reward for an immense effort.

Thankfully, to the rescue is Irma P. Hall in a supporting role as the blind and acerbic Aunt T., sister of the men's dead mother. Her performance is precious, and her scenes are true gems--so good that the film is almost worth watching if only to see her performance. Duvall and Jones perform well as usual, but it's Hall who steals the show.

A Family Thing might be a rip-off, but hey, at least Driving Miss Daisy was a good movie (it won Best Picture after all), and the producers were wise to steal from a classic. Unfortunately, A Family Thing inevitably relegates it to second-tier fare.

Jones and Duvall prepare to enter the Tales From the Darkside set.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Friday 29th March 1996

Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment

Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Richard Pearce

Starring: as Earl Pilcher Jr., as Ray Murdock, as Virgil, Irma P. Hall as Aunt T., as Ruby, Regina Taylor as Ann, as Sonny

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