Jason Bateman continues his directorial progression with “The Family Fang”

Jason Bateman 600x300
A few years back, Jason Bateman made his directorial debut with the amusing yet filthy comedy Bad Words. This year, he has a sophomore feature that just hit screens in The Family Fang. I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and found it to be only decent, but regardless of my thoughts, it shows off an interesting direction for Bateman as a filmmaker. He seems to be moving towards prestige fare, which is not exactly where you’d initially peg his projects to go. For that, I can’t help but show admiration for his choices so far.

The movie is an adaptation of Kevin Wilson’s novel. The plot centers on the adult lives of the children of noted performance art mavericks Caleb Fang (Christopher Walken) and Camille Fang (Maryann Plunkett). As kids, Baxter Fang (Bateman) and Annie Fang (Nicole Kidman) enjoyed the gimmicks that doubled as games for them, but as grown ups, they’re profoundly damaged. Baxter is a struggling author and Annie is an actress more known for offscreen antics than onscreen ones. They’re estranged themselves, but when an accident brings them together, they then come back into contact with their parents. Then, Caleb and Camille disappear. Is this a tragedy or one last piece of performance art? Annie and Baxter are determined to find out. Bateman directs here, while David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the adaptation of Wilson’s book. The rest of the cast includes Michael Chernus, Kathryn Hahn, Josh Pais, Harris Yulin, and more. On the technical side, perpetually underrated composer Carter Burwell handles the score.

Even though I have some issues with the flick, I definitely can appreciate where Bateman is going. The maturation from Bad Words to The Family Fang is impressive. Moreover, I found more fault in the story and screenplay by Lindsay-Abaire than with what Bateman shot from the director’s chair. He’s a stronger actor when directed by himself to boot, so I’m all for him continuing down this road. In fact, if this continues and he finds some better material to work with, I really think that Bateman can be one of the next actors turned filmmakers to be cited by the Academy. He’s probably a ways away, but an Oscar one day could certainly be in his future.

I doubt this will be an awards player, but anything is possible. Academy Award campaigns could be put forward though, especially if the precursors are kind to this one. If that’s the case, look for efforts to be made in Best Picture, Best Director (for Bateman), Best Actor (for Bateman as well), Best Actress (for Kidman), Best Supporting Actor (for Walken), Best Supporting Actress (for Hahn or Plunkett), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Lindsay-Abaire), and Best Original Score. Outside of perhaps a place like the Independent Spirit Awards, I don’t think we’ll see many citations, but you can’t completely rule it out either at this early juncture. Time will tell, simply put.

Overall, The Family Fang is an interesting next step for Bateman as a multi hyphenate. He’s already a noted comedic actor, one with capabilities to really ace dramatic roles too, but now he’s also a director to be reckoned with. I prefer his satirical comedy Bad Words to this family drama, but there’s things to like here for sure. I suspect we’ll be seeing Bateman continue to hone his craft in the years to come. For now though, if you’re curious what he’s got to offer in more serious fare, this could be something to check out. If that’s the case, give it a shot. You might very well come away impressed…

The Family Fang is in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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