Fathers and Daughters is a portentous family melodrama that has little new to say about either fathers or daughters.
Jake Davis (Russell Crowe) is a writer — the tortured, twitchy, troubled kind — whose wife dies in a tragic car accident; his daughter, Katie, is seen as both a young girl (Kylie Rogers) and a grown woman (Amanda Seyfried). The back-and-forth timeframe lends some narrative interest, and the scenes between Jake and young Katie are appealing when they don’t give way to Crowe’s unstable-writer tics.
Grown Katie is a frustrating character: We see her pick up men in bars and are meant to understand this as a direct result of her difficult childhood. This pop psychology is driven home as Katie starts a relationship with Cameron (Aaron Paul), a nice if bland young man on whom she ends up cheating.
Katie’s rote bad-girl-trying-to-be-good characterization is given a particularly galling conclusion when her haughty aunt (Diane Kruger) tells her, “Men can survive without love, but not us women” and she promptly returns to Cameron.
Fathers and Daughters would be a far more intriguing film if it painted Katie as something more than a quick psychological study and didn’t rely on sexist platitudes. Her strongest moments come during meetings with a foster child she mentors (Quvenzhané Wallis). Wallis brings a welcome stoicism to the role, and in speaking candidly to her, Seyfried’s character reveals a degree of complexity.
While Fathers and Daughters has a strong cast (including a brief appearance by Jane Fonda), it largely saddles them with one-dimensional roles and too-obvious emotional cues.
Fathers and Daughters
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Opens July 8, Village East Cinema