The good news is that Kathleen Turner has finally landed another starring role in a movie — her first since 1994’s Serial Mom (we’re just going to pretend Baby Geniuses never existed).
The bad news is that the film happens to be The Perfect Family, a leaden, ham-fisted affair that was exactly the sort of pap John Waters was spoofing when he cast Turner as a serial-killing soccer mom.
Turner plays Eileen Cleary, a devout mother and wife in line to win the Catholic Woman of the Year. But there are several obstacles that could derail her shot at the prestigious award. Her daughter (Emily Deschanel, sister of Zooey) is a lesbian; her husband (Michael McGrady) is a recovering alcoholic; and her son (Jason Ritter) is cheating on his wife and following in his dad’s boozy footsteps.
Directed by Anne Renton and written by Claire V. Riley and Paula Goldberg, The Perfect Family explores the struggle of people of religious faith trying to make their way in a modern world that has rewritten olden rules. The movie treats its central dilemma seriously — Eileen loves her daughter but cannot accept who she is — but in the most self-righteous and least interesting manner possible. The film’s idea of wit is to cast Richard Chamberlain (wink, wink) as the monsignor who nominates Eileen for the prize or to have Turner flare her nostrils at the gay books she finds at her daughter’s apartment.
The message of The Perfect Family — life is too complicated and unpredictable to observe rigid mandates and laws — is more pro-acceptance than anti-Catholic. The film doesn’t bash religion so much as ask that we learn to love each other for who we are, the sort of platitude at which even Hallmark would scoff. And Eileen’s panic toward her lesbian daughter makes the character seem like she just stepped out of a 1950s sitcom. Coming a couple of days after President Barack Obama has declared his support of gay marriage, The Perfect Family feels awfully dated. Turner is good at portraying Eileen’s struggle to reconcile her faith with her loved ones. She’s a welcome screen presence and a fine actress. She just deserves better material.
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Michael McGrady, Richard Chamberlain.
Director: Anne Renton.
Screenwriters: Claire V. Riley, Paula Goldberg.
Producers: Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson.
A Variance Films release. Running time: 84 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. Opens Friday May 11 in Miami-Dade: Aventura, Sunset Place; in Broward: Cinema Paradiso; in Palm Beach: Mos’ Art.