Fos­ter fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment

Di­rec­tor Sean An­ders drew on his own life for a big-screen tale of adop­tion Kate Wil­son

The Georgia Straight - - Movies - By

Sean An­ders, the di­rec­tor of big-bud­get flicks like Hor­ri­ble Bosses 2 and the Daddy’s Home fran­chise, doesn’t typ­i­cally get in­volved in the pro­mo­tion of his movies. Stay­ing be­hind the cam­era, the vet­eran prefers his films to speak for them­selves, and leaves the promo to his stars. But for his lat­est of­fer­ing, there’s a good rea­son why he’s stepped into the press spot­light.

In­stant Fam­ily is An­ders’s baby in ev­ery sense of the word. Telling the story of a cou­ple who chose not to have chil­dren early on in their mar­riage, only to later re­al­ize that their lives might be miss­ing some­thing, the movie tra­verses the well­trod­den nar­ra­tive of rais­ing kids— but from a much more re­al­is­tic per­spec­tive than most.

“I adopted three kids,” he tells the Straight, on the line from a press stop in Toronto. “My wife and I—our story started ex­actly like the char­ac­ters

In­stant Fam­ily.

in the movie. We were try­ing to de­cide whether or not to have kids, and I was feel­ing on the old side. I said, ‘Why don’t we get a five-year-old, and it will look like we got started five years ago.’ I was to­tally jok­ing, but my wife ran with it. The story that we’re telling in this film is a fic­tional story, but it’s in­spired by a lot of my own ex­pe­ri­ences, and also the ex­pe­ri­ences of a lot of other fam­i­lies that I met along the way.”

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Any­one who’s seen the new film Bo­hemian Rhap­sody was ex­posed to snip­pets of Queen front­man Fred­die Mer­cury’s Parsi back­ground.

The Par­sis are Zoroas­tri­ans who fled Iran in the sev­enth cen­tury, with many set­tling in what are now the western In­dian states of Gu­ju­rat and Ma­ha­rash­tra.

Mer­cury’s par­ents were typ­i­cal Bom­bay Par­sis. They at­tended the fire tem­ple and lived by the Parsi re­li­gious dic­tum of “good words, good thoughts, and good deeds”.

That phrase popped up twice when Mer­cury was talk­ing to his fa­ther, Bomi, in Bo­hemian Rhap­sody.

In ad­di­tion, Bom­bay Par­sis were known for their pas­sion for opera, and the boys of­ten share close bonds with their moth­ers.

Both of these were re­flected in Mer­cury’s mu­sic, per­haps most poignantly in his fi­nal record­ing, “Mother Love”, and in “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody”.

His dad was a civil ser­vant of the Bri­tish Raj and was trans­ferred to the is­land of Zanz­ibar (now part of Tan­za­nia), where Mer­cury was born in 1946. Zanz­ibar had a mas­sive Mus­lim pres­ence, par­tic­u­larly when Mer­cury was young, and the word Bis­mil­lah is Ara­bic for “in the name of God”. There’s a funny scene in the film where a record ex­ec­u­tive, played by Mike My­ers, doesn’t know what the word means when he hears

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Writ­ten in 2016 be­tween the first Daddy’s Home movie and its se­quel, In­stant Fam­ily gave An­ders the space to ex­plore fam­ily bonds, and in­ter­ro­gate the ex­pe­ri­ences of fos­ter care and the adop­tion process. Tak­ing au­di­ences through the hon­ey­moon pe­riod of fos­ter­ing to the dif­fi­cul­ties of ne­go­ti­at­ing re­la­tion­ships with a child’s bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, the film doesn’t shy away from tack­ling the tough truths of how hard it is to give a kid a sec­ond chance. But it also doesn’t shrink from high­light­ing the hu­mour of ev­ery­day fam­ily sit­u­a­tions, from tod­dlers’ tem­per tantrums in Toys “R” Us to the lax par­ent­ing of ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic grand­par­ents.

“It was the num­ber one goal of the movie, and the num­ber one con­cern, to make a le­git­i­mately laugh­out loud funny film, but we also wanted to pay the proper re­spect to this very se­ri­ous topic,” An­ders says. “Through­out the writ­ing process, and all the way through to the last tweaks of the edit, that was the thing that we were fo­cused on the most. When we would put it in front of au­di­ences, we would make sure that the com­edy wasn’t tak­ing away from the emo­tion, and at the same time that we were al­ways able to come back to a laugh. When­ever you can make peo­ple laugh through their tears, that’s the best laugh.”

The magic of the film is in its at­ten­tion to de­tail. Tak­ing An­ders’s sit­u­a­tion as a start­ing point, the movie em­bel­lishes his story by it in “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody”.

Mer­cury spent his youth in In­dia at a board­ing school out­side of Bom­bay, play­ing in a teenage band called the Hec­tics. He also at­tended an­other school in Bom­bay (now Mum­bai). While liv­ing in In­dia, he started call­ing him­self Fred­die, which is a com­mon Parsi name.

Rock stars come and go, but to his many fans, there will only be one Fred­die Mer­cury. His en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity is re­flected in the movie’s ap­peal. In its sec­ond week­end, Bo­hemian Rhap­sody was in sec­ond place be­hind The Grinch.

Over two weeks, the Mer­cury biopic has about $100 mil­lion in do­mes­tic box-of­fice re­ceipts.

plac­ing strong-willed teen Lizzy (Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight ’s Is­abela Moner) in the home of new par­ents Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and El­lie (Rose Byrne, In­sid­i­ous), as well as her two younger sib­lings. To en­sure that ev­ery line would be some­thing that might make sense to fos­ter kids around the States, the writ­ing team brought a host of par­ents and chil­dren fa­mil­iar with the sys­tem to vet the script, and An­ders de­cided that the ex­tras in many of the scenes would be mem­bers of real adop­tive fam­i­lies. That au­then­tic­ity helped both to ce­ment the qual­ity of the movie, and to re­al­ize the di­rec­tor’s hopes for the film.

“So many movies have been made on this topic that fo­cus on the trauma and the tragedy of it all,” An­ders says. “Even though those movies make peo­ple think, and make them em­pa­thetic, it also makes peo­ple scared of who these kids are. And I was one of them. I just wanted to make a movie that would let peo­ple know that these kids are just kids, who need love and par­ents, and who have a lot to give as well. I just think that if peo­ple go on this jour­ney, and they see a more com­plete story that gets into the laugh­ter and the joy of it all, then they’ll go home with a more pos­i­tive out­look. They’ll know that if they or if some­one in their fam­ily wants to go down the adop­tion or fos­ter-care route, that they will hope­fully be more sup­port­ive. That will lead to more real kids hav­ing real fam­i­lies.”

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