There’s a vague echo of John Waters’s film Serial Mom in director Anne Renton’s The Perfect Family. But where Waters’s satiric look at the lengths to which a mom would go to maintain the illusion (if not delusion) of her idealized family struck the balance between vinegar and lemonade, Renton’s competing tones and intentions result in a film at odds with itself and its lead performance. Eileen (Kathleen Turner) is consumed by the Catholic Church and its doctrine—so much so that her nonstop charitable work leads to her priest (Richard Chamberlain) nominating her for Catholic Woman of the Year, pitting her against childhood rival Agnes (Sharon Lawrence). What the good father doesn’t know is that Eileen’s son is an adulterer, her daughter is a pregnant lesbian living with her partner, and Eileen’s own marriage is a sham. The script, co-written by Claire V. Riley and Paula Goldberg, oscillates between Lifetime-channel melodrama, lazy barbs (“I don’t have to think; I’m a Catholic”) and facile irony (the song “It’s a Perfect Day” playing on the car radio). It never synthesizes into something whole or believable. That’s unfortunate because there are moments when Turner telegraphs a palpable sadness and anguish beneath Eileen’s rigid morality (including homophobia) that makes you wish she and her character were in a smarter film.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 2, 2012