Film de­liv­ers hon­esty and laughs

Sunday Star-Times - - Entertainment - Dar­ren Be­van dar­­[email protected]

They say you should al­ways write what you know about, and from the heart. But, in Hol­ly­wood, that adage is hard to believe, given how cyn­i­cal the prod­uct and mar­ket­ing ma­chine can be.

How­ever, in In­stant Fam­ily (in cin­e­mas now), Hol­ly­wood has put a truth on screen that is of­ten ig­nored, and buried by schmaltz and sac­cha­rine.

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne’s dram­edy about a cou­ple who de­cide to adopt a trio of kids is per­haps the most truth­ful movie to ex­plore and ex­plode some of the myths of the agony and ec­stasy of deal­ing with tak­ing on kids from foster care. And for that rea­son alone, it de­serves to be shouted about.

It’s a sur­prise too, given that di­rec­tor Sean An­ders who wrote it, was be­hind the worst film of the past decade, Daddy’s Home 2.

But An­ders has form in this dis­cus­sion – he, along with his wife, went through the adop­tion process, with all of its ups and downs.

As a re­sult, In­stant Fam­ily de­liv­ers hu­man­ity, em­pa­thy and per­ti­nent un­der­stand­ing, while pep­per­ing the whole af­fair with the req­ui­site laughs.

The mak­ers know it’s best to avoid the stereo­types around deal­ing with so­cial work­ers and be­lit­tle the harsh re­al­ity of bring­ing other kids into the fold.

Much like Ku­mail Nan­jiani and Emily Gor­don drew deep from the well of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence for The Big Sick, In­stant Fam­ily’s vein of ve­rac­ity comes from An­ders’ au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal in­put.

In­stant Fam­ily de­serves ku­dos for putting a face on adop­tion, so rarely seen in movies of this type, where the kids are usu­ally por­trayed as ‘‘kooky’’ and the sys­tem is a breeze.

In the first third of the film, the com­mit­ment to a heart­break­ing truth is to be duly ap­plauded, in­tro­duc­ing com­plex­i­ties to what tran­spires.

Yet the film-mak­ers are smart enough to re­alise that to get the mes­sage across, they need the au­di­ence on side through­out – and not once do they fum­ble.

It’s rare – and heart­en­ing – to see such hon­esty in a broad stu­dio prod­uct, and while it strays away from too much di­dac­ti­cism, the film’s com­mit­ment to truth – punc­tu­ated with hu­mour – is ex­cep­tion­ally com­mend­able.

Else­where, there’s plenty of hon­esty on show in smaller cin­ema re­lease Eighth Grade, about a teen on the cusp of Amer­i­can high school. Rid­dled with acne, bathed in the con­stant flu­o­res­cent glow of phone or com­puter screen, Elsie Fisher’s Kayla wears her awk­ward heart on her sleeve.

But Eighth Grade is more verite film than Napoleon Dy­na­mite.

Less hon­esty is around in com­puter game Just Cause 4. The ad­ven­tures of Rico Ro­driguez as he takes on dic­ta­tors were graced with car­toon laughs in their third out­ing, but this lat­est feels joy­less, bloated and bro­ken.

In­stant Fam­ily, star­ring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, is a dram­edy with a lot of heart.

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