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Fam-Cam Doc Prodigal Sons Pushed Along by Dysfunction

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Prodigal Sons
Directed by Kimberly Reed
First Run Features
Opens February 26, Cinema Village

Kimberly Reed was born Paul McKerrow in Helena, Montana, the middle of three sons who was the high school quarterback and voted Most Likely to Succeed. Returning to Big Sky Country in 2005 for her 20th high school reunion, Reed finds most of her classmates unfazed by her new gender; the real conflict is between the blonde, willowy filmmaker and her adopted older brother, Marc—fat, balding, and prone to paroxysms of rage brought on by a head injury at age 21. As with most fam-cam documentaries, dysfunction pushes the story along, tipping over into exploitation. Despite a fascinating midpoint revelation—seeking information about his biological parents, Marc discovers he's the grandson of Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles (Marc most resembles Welles's Touch of Evil character Hank Quinlan)—Reed spends too much time capturing her sibling's terrifying outbursts, devoting the film's final act almost exclusively to his increasingly abject circumstances. "I felt like Marc would have given anything to be the man I would have given anything not to be," Reed says at one point—an intriguing line of inquiry that remains underexplored in lieu of shattered glass, chokeholds, 911 calls, and prison visits.

 
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