What a Wonderful Family!
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, which runs through Aug. 3.
What a Wonderful Family!
If there’s one filmgoing experience that I believe to be universal, it’s the one where a family must successfully navigate what movie they should watch together during some holiday. No one wants to be the one that suggests a well-reviewed drama that just so happens to have an orgy scene in the middle, so we as a species turn to the Nancy Meyers and James L. Brooks of this world for guidance. There is no doubt in my mind that Yoji Yamada’s What a Wonderful Family! serves that very purpose for a whole heap of Japanese families.
Curmudgeonly patriarch Shuzo (Isao Hashizume) lives in a multi-generational household with his his wife Tomiko (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), his two sons, his eldest son’s wife and his grandchildren. Retired, he enjoys golf and getting drunk at a local bar, whittling away at however much time he’s got left — a routine that gets considerably upended when he returns home one day to find Tomiko has served him with divorce papers. This causes reasonable turmoil amongst their grown children, who see their mother’s decision as rash and reactionary.
What a Wonderful Family! functions as a kind of counterpoint to Yamada’s 2013 remake of Ozu’s Tokyo Story (which was retitled Tokyo Family) — where that film saw an aging couple beset by their children’s indifference to their predicament, this one explores more or less the opposite. (In fact, the cast of this film is more or less identical to that of Tokyo Family, and footage of the Ozu film plays a not-insignificant role in here.) The topic of divorce is clearly a more controversial topic in Japan than on this side of the ocean, but Yamada’s direction is simplistic to the point of being sitcomish, and the film is light on both laughs and emotions. (In one scene, a man walks in on one of the sons giving his bride-to-be a timid smooch and freaks the fuck out, vaudeville-style; it’s that kind of movie.) It’s a nice enough little film, but it’s impossible not to see the generic-ass movie starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton that lies dormant in here. (Alex Rose)
What a Wonderful Family! screens at the Alumni Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Sunday, July 31, 4:15 p.m.
After a slow start, Another Evil unfolds as a hilarious comedy with horrorish elements. When the tonal shift to true horror/comedy comes about halfway through, the film begins to flounder and it never quite recovers. The dialogue becomes less hit and more miss as it goes on as well. The viewer may also be thrown by the casting of parents and son, which is poor and implausible due to the small age gap. This is unfortunate because the film had the potential to be a good oddball character piece with some great performances.
Upon realizing that his cottage is haunted, Dan enlists a new age ghost expert/therapist named Joey (Dan Bakkedahl) to solve his problem. Despite a very memorable session, Dan is not satisfied with Joey’s conclusion that he should live with the friendly ghosts, and so he hires a ghost hunter named Os (Mark Proksch). This is the point where things become really interesting, primarily due to Proksch’s excellent comic timing. His fabricated findings, homemade power glove, ghost traps and alcohol soaked practices are particularly choice and downright hilarious.
However, once Os’s mental breakdown begins, the buddy comedy turns increasingly dark, and becomes more awkward than funny. By the time Dan realizes that he’s made a grave mistake hiring Os, the point of no return has long passed.
The interesting and often unpredictable plot twists in Another Evil are definitely entertaining. They, in combination with standout performances by Bakkedahl and Proksch, as well as several hilarious scenes, make it well worth checking out. Those darker souls among us may find the entire film to be a winning horror/comedy. (Katie Ferrar and Mark Carpenter)
Another Evil screens at the J.A. de Sève Cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Sunday, July 31, 4:50 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $11 each, or online ($12 each), here.