Review of eulogy
debbie lynn elias | 02/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Newcomer Michael Clancy makes his debut as writer-director with one of the darkest, and funniest, comedies of the year, "Eulogy." The premise is simple - three generations come together for the funeral of the family patriarch. Grandpa has just passed and the clan gathers at Grandma's house to prepare for the ceremonious occasion and, of course, to write the eulogy. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much of a positive nature to be said about Gramps; actually, there doesn't seem to be too much to be said of a positive nature about anyone in the family. Just ask them! And it's this delectable portrayal of multi-generational dysfunctional bickering, secrets, backstabbing, finger-pointing and one-upsmanship that makes this film work. (Did Clancy visit my family recently? I wonder.)
Eldest son, Skip Collins is anything but lovable. With lawyer with a dour face and personality to match, if he ever smiled his face would crack. And making his family even more blessed, he has two obnoxious twin sons that give new meaning to the term "hell on wheels." Daniel is a wannabe actor whose biggest claim to fame is one peanut butter commercial he did as a child. Seems now the only work he can grab is as a wannabe porn star. Daughter Lucy brings the shock factor to the table when she arrives with her lesbian lover (and provides even more fuel for the comic fodder) while eldest daughter, control freak Alice does her usual best at trying to run the show and all the while wishing she was "anywhere here." And let's not forget Grandma who herself has a bit of a suicidal streak. Rounding out the brood are the various spouses and grandchildren, especially Katie, who was the apple of her grandfather's eye. Katie has the dubious honor of overseeing the preparation of the eulogy - and on keeping tabs on her "beloved" relatives.
As the family sits around the dinner table to write the eulogy, catch up, insult, berate, try to write the eulogy, criticize, confront, antagonize and ultimately, try again to write a eulogy, we start to understand why Grandpa was so distant with his heirs and why no one can think of anything nice to say about the man. Seems Grandpa had as many secrets, if not more, than the beloved family he has left behind.
Ray Romano, of whom I have never been too impressed, is perfect as Skip. So familiar as the lovable Raymond from television, he is the complete opposite here and it comes as a pleasant surprise. Hank Azaria is, as usual, over the top as he plays the part of Daniel to the hilt pushing the envelope to his most obnoxious best. A real coup was the casting of semi-retired Debra Winger as Alice whose natural freneticism makes the character even more believable. But it is Zooey Deschanel as Katie who stands out as the real winner in this ensemble. Blending a nice balance of heartfelt emotion and sincerity with the more acerbic family traits she, more than anyone else, connects most with the audience. And of course, Piper Laurie and Rip Torn as Grandma and Grandpa are beyond hysterically funny.
A stellar cast, albeit seemingly overqualified for their roles at times, keep the story moving along at an enjoyable pace and deliver some classic performances with deadpan comic timing. The dichotomy of the mean-spirited family members and the serenity of the beautiful New England setting plays up to the dark comedy of the film's intent. Clancy's script, allegedly based on some of his own family experiences (hopefully, a bit over-exaggerated here) is witty to the core, and although it never quite attains the level of being a consistently dark comedy, he definitely hits the darker end of the gray scale with every utterance.
Adding to the meld of dialogue and delivery, are the antics and events that provide fuel for even more cutting family wackiness and sarcasm. Who can resist a good guffaw at Grandma attempting suicide (for the second time and never really serious about it) by jumping off a bridge - only to land on top of a car in which some untoward happenings are taking place with a younger relative? Or a husband forced by his wife to sit at the kiddie table? (I can just see my one sister-in-law doing that to my brother!) And of course, just when you think you've seen it all, how about seeing your mother baring it all on the "big screen"? At while times it may seem never ending, it's always funny.
Akin to two of my favorite "family" films, "Home for the Holidays" and "Greedy", "Eulogy" is guaranteed to a touch a cord in everyone who sees it. Be it you thank your lucky stars for a kind loving "normal" family or you jump up and yell "Hallelujah!" that your family, while quirky in its own right, is nowhere near the depths of the Collins family, you can't help but find elements that draw you into the family circus. Witty, cutting, biting and at its heart, actually very endearing and loving (although Clancy never sells out to saccharine), this film reminds me of my own family (and oh so much more than you know). When asked by a guest at my brother's wedding if my brother and I didn't like each other given the insulting remarks we continually made, my father replied, "If they didn't behave like that, then we'd have a problem." Such is the Collins family. The ultimate eulogy here: A family's love isn't always expressed in hearts and flowers. Sometimes, nothing says "family" like dysfunction and the sting of a little rapier wit.
Skip Collins: Ray Romano Daniel Collins: Hank Azaria Lucy Collins: Kelly Preston Alice Collins: Debra Winger Grandma Collins: Piper Laurie Grandpa Collins: Rip Torn
Written and directed by Michael Clancy. Rated R. (91 min)
Dad's dead and the family decides if it cares
Movie Snobs | 04/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The family's patriarch dies suddenly, and the splintered family hesitantly regroups to mourn the loss. With old issues and new lives firmly intact, they all attempt to put up with each other and discover their true feelings about their choices, each other and their father - played typically well, though sparingly, by Rip Torn. The cast is excellent, with always funny Hank Azaria playing a one-hit-wonder child star who can only get parts in porn movies, as the guy reacting to the others having sex. Kelly Preston plays the angry lesbian sister scorned by the other sister, played by Debra Winger. These two do a great job of hating each other and have maybe the best girl fight I've seen in a movie. Everyone else in the cast turn in good performances, including Piper Laurie as the hilariously suicidal mother, but Ray Romano surprised the hell out of me with an excellent performance that just may have shined the brightest. I haven't been a Romano fan until now.
The family relations are convoluted, the performances excellent, the writing hilarious and the ending truly surprising. Don't miss this movie."
Life in a Fish Bowl - a Family in Full View
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Odd that one of the recurring themes for television series, plays, cartoons, and movies is the American dysfunctional family. Odd, and sad that what in previous years used the same concept for meaty tough dramas like, for one example, O'Neil's 'Long Days Journey into Night'. Now those same issues that used to be private and painful and not concepts that families would openly share with a public have become fodder for zany, over the top, toilet-mouthed comedies.
Such is the case for EULOGY. In essence the story is a matter a few days in the Collins family whose three generations have gathered for the funeral of the patriarch Edmund Collins (Rip Torn), each with their own issues of disenchantment with the world and each caught up in the ME FIRST pathology that precludes healthy relationships - save one: granddaughter Kate (Zooey Deschanel) daughter of ex-child actor Daniel (Hank Azaria) who seems the most solidly adjusted of the bunch and is therefore the one elected to write and speak the Eulogy for the funeral.
The Grandmother Charlotte (Piper Laurie) is suicidal (who wouldn't be in this family environment?) and the remainder of the family includes smarmy Skip (Ray Romano playing Ray Romano), Skip's twin sons Fred and Ted (Curtis and Keith Garcia), lesbian sister Lucy (Kelly Preston) and her lover Judy (Famke Janssen),
and the controllingly vile sister Alice (Debra Winger). Throw these disparate characters into the bowl, add the fishfood script by Michael Clancy (who also directs) and voila! - out comes a fast-paced, half-baked comedy that finds the audience hungry for laughter even over embarrassing choices of jokes. The cast is fleshed out with performances from Glenne Headly, Jesse Bradford, and Rene Auberjonois.
Yes, the film has its funny moments: it is sad that the comedy is always at the expense of individual character flaws that are not inherently funny. But with a cast of this quality you can be assured that the project is worth watching, if only to see the talented Debra Winger once again in action! Grady Harp, March 05