Ned (Liev Schreiber), the beleaguered patriarch in writer-director Richard Levine’s middling first feature, slogs through slowly simmering domestic and work stresses. Wife Jeannie (Helen Hunt) has begrudgingly allowed her sour, incapacitated father (Brian Dennehy) to move into their Queens home; recently out teenage son Jonah (Ezra Miller) has set off Ned’s mildly homophobic concerns (later realized, phobically, in the film); Ned’s boss, Garrett (Eddie Izzard), show runner of Mercy Medical, demands more labyrinthine, debauched storylines. Levine, previously a writer for Nip/Tuck, sets the bar low, content to work within the shopworn crises, lazy epiphanies, and eye-rolling moments of redemption that have become standard formula in Amerindie family dramedies of the past 20 years. But what distinguishes Levine’s film from, say, last year’s similarly themed (and irredeemable) Happy Tears is his cast—and not just reliable vets like Schreiber. Curly-haired dumpling Skyler Fortgang, as Jonah’s younger brother, Ethan, offers much more than just wide-eyed cutes. But it’s Miller, perfectly balancing teenage recalcitrance and vulnerability, who’s the most exciting to watch: Following his debut in Afterschool and City Island, he’s become one of the best adolescent actors working today.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 12, 2011