Reuniting the Rubins Movie Review
When his mother (Blackman) purchases the old family home, Lenny (Spall) must cancel his retirement cruise and reunite his four estranged children for a Jewish holiday celebration. But gathering the ruthless capitalist (Callis), eco-warrior (Mitra), ultra-orthodox rabbi (O'Connor) and Buddhist monk (Newman) in the same place will require a miracle. Sure enough, it's a disaster, and Lenny's only hope is that he can stop the war long enough to have dinner together.
Writer-director Factor gained enough experience making commercials to give the film a bright, sunny look, but scenes are written and directed without much style or grace. He encourages overplaying from his cast, which makes the dialog feel corny and amateurish. And he packs in the cliches while ignoring any sense of logic. For example, one morning Lenny takes a trip to deepest, darkest Congo to search for his daughter, and he seems to get home in time for supper.
Even more insulting is the way each character emotionally blackmails their family members. Lenny's mother brandishes her concentration camp tattoo to manipulate Lenny into doing her bidding. And Lenny plays the dead wife card at one point. Stir in a corporate conspiracy, more than one heart attack, a birth and a death, and we realise that the filmmakers are doing the same thing with us, trying to force us to feel emotions that they can't be bothered to develop organically in a coherent screenplay.
This is a family of tetchy, mistrusting, backstabbing people, and we wouldn't want to spend any time with one of them, let alone all gathered together in one room. Spall brings a level of dignity to his role, of course, that at least makes him sympathetic, and Newman has an enjoyable spark of wit and real emotion in his mostly silent role. But the film simply isn't funny enough to be enjoyable or dramatic enough to be cathartic. It's clearly a labour of love, but perhaps an outside eye would have brought things into better focus.