Depth and complexity just don't run in "The Family."
The Family sounds great on paper – a Luc Besson film, set in France, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeifer, Tommy Lee Jones and Diana Argon – it would take a… the opposite of a miracle for this film to flop. However, the critics just don’t seem to be warming up to this comedy about the family of an American mobster, relocating to rural France and essentially harassing the locals for almost two hours. There are a number of reasons, cited against the family – the acting not being one of them, of course – but the one that seems to be sticking is the uninspired story (penned by Besson himself, along with Michael Caleo, based on the novel by Tonino Benacquista).
De Niro manages to shine even in a lackluster role.
De Niro has plenty of experience playing mobsters. His performance as Gio, a gangster-turned-rat, who is forced to pose as a writer, living with his family in a village in Normandy and simultaneously penning a memoir, gets almost universal thumbs up, The New York Times’ Stephen Holden calls De Niro’s performance “surprisingly nuanced” and his character – “charming in a rough-hewed way, but lethal.”
Pfeiffer also has plenty of experience in the field and it shows.
Pfeiffer receives similar praise, as does Tommy Lee Jones. However, the central objection most critics seem to have is against the movie’s insistence on clichés over believability. It can even be seen in the trailer. Of course, the two-and-a-half-minute clip features plenty of somewhat witty banter and explosions to keep you interested and perhaps even make you buy a ticket. However, when Pfeiffer blows up the local supermarket, because she’s angry at the condescending locals, it becomes obvious that realism and depth have taken a back seat in this one.
Which isn’t to say that the film won’t be entertaining – this writer would personally be perfectly content watching Michelle Pfeiffer blowing up supermarkets and Diana Argon shooting in slow motion till the cows come home. But in case you’re looking for a mobster film worth watching more than once – it seems like Goodfellas might be a safer bet.
Argon and D'Leo's roles unfortunately don't offer much beyond the stereotype.