We’ve seen this kind of thing before — The Dysfunctional Family Get-Together, Black-Comedy Division — but this one has a cast to die for and a bitter poignancy that imparts the sly and frequently mean-spirited wit with genuine feeling. Edmund Collins (Rip Torn: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) has died, leaving behind a suicidal widow (Piper Laurie: The Faculty), a handful of neurotic offspring, and their spouses and kids, most of whom have had the Collins craziness rub off on them in the worst possible way. Only college student Kate (the luminous and sharp-edged Zooey Deschanel: Elf) has her head on straight, but even that won’t help her write Grandpa’s eulogy when no one has a kind word to say about him. Sure, this is one of those thank-god-your-own-family-ain’t-this-bad movies, but I dare you not to find yourself really kind of wishing you could hang out with Hank Azaria’s (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) Daniel, a washed-up former child star (and Kate’s dad), and Famke Janssen’s (X2: X-Men United) Judy, lesbian lover to Collins daughter Lucy (Kelly Preston: The Cat in the Hat), who delights in tweaking her future sister-in-law Alice’s (a deliciously disturbed Debra Winger: Radio) homophobia. And Glenne Headly is always a treat, here as an old family friend who finds herself putting out emotional fires… and restarting an old one. Writer/director Michael Clancy makes a promising debut here, adroitly juggling diverse, expansive characters, and not only does he never let them descend into the cartoonish, he gets us to really care about them, psychoses and all.
rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
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viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics