The Family Works Only When It Stays Together


It’s Robert De Niro as we’ve seen him before: think The Big Wedding and Goodfellas (which, in the film, is given a shout-out alongside executive producer Martin Scorsese) but in the Witness Protection Program and joined by his fictional family in northern France. This makes for a juggling act of comedy, romance, and gangster genres—but the balls don’t always stay in the air. You can be chuckling one minute then cowering and cringing the next, which tinges the humor with apprehension and taints the brutality with absurdity. That isn’t to say that the combo doesn’t work at all. Take Dianna Agron’s Belle, dressed in the sweet and girly fashion of her Glee counterpart and whaling on some girl for stealing her pink pencil case. But then she reacts as dramatically to rejection from her first love as the similarly named Bella did in Twilight. Father, mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter, and son (John D’Leo) all share varying degrees of sociopathic and homicidal tendencies, but they are still very much a loving family. All their vengeance is directed outward: at the supermarket owner who makes fun of Americans, the plumber who arrives late and tries to hustle a higher payment, or the bully who beats the son up on the first day of school. There are some great moments sprinkled throughout. But overall, these elements never seem to come together in the same harmonious way that this family does with each other. (And if you want to see what it’s like when these three genres do coalesce, try Some Like It Hot.)