Dysfunctional families are explored in film all the time, likely because most families can relate. Everyone has that fucked-up aunt who got married multiple times before stealing car keys and disappearing, only to reappear as a U.S. soldier. Or that grandmother who lovingly bakes you homemade goods, all while commenting on your weight. Since films portray these kind of twisted relationships between people all the time, it stands that some ideas would be better than others. However, it’s a damn shame when a good idea gets put into practice improperly.
Peep World is the story of a day with the Meyerwitz clan on the eve of an event that could rupture them entirely. Nathan (Ben Schwartz), the youngest son and the most financially successful of the group, has just spit his family’s entire lives out into a successful "fictional" work. His self-centered sister, Cheri (Sarah Silverman), is none too happy and has threatened to sue Nathan. His brother, Jack (Michael C. Hall), the most well-adjusted of the group, has bigger fish to fry. Jack is a quietly failed businessman whose pregnant wife (Judy Greer) is pissed that he looks at porn. The eldest sibling in the clan, Joel (Rainn Wilson), is so stuck on his own financial woes he hardly notices the indelicacy of his and his sibling’s behavior. They’re all coming together for the first time since Nathan’s novel was published, for an evening dinner with their father (Ron Rifkin), a 70-year-old cutthroat asshole who is dating someone his daughter’s age.
With a comically inclined ensemble cast, we could have something as slyly charming as Arrested Development or even blatant idea-humor as per Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, that ends up being the problem. Lewis Black as an Arrested Development-type narrator is a fiasco, and a slew of self-intimating Jewish jokes don’t ever achieve comedic gold. Peter Himmelstein’s whole script is based on one great idea: a novelist writes openly about his own dysfunctional family and has to attend an event where he must deal with it. However, the rest of the film is comprised of thinly veiled homage to things we’ve seen and places we’ve already been with humor. It’s painful.
It’s also senseless. How could a film take Rainn Wilson, whose ad-libbing skills have been perfected after years on The Office, and toss him into a role where he is mostly implemented for his wild eyes and generally disheveled appearance? Even Sarah Silverman, who gets to play a wacky, self-centered, ridiculous woman-child, can’t find the right words to shape her character into something special. This shouldn’t be possible -- she loves shoving that over-the-top personality crap into people’s faces -- but the script sends her into too many scenes where she gets to say too few words and ends up a silly caricature. Maybe it is the actors’ fault for not putting in enough effort, but I’d put my money on a faulty script or editing.
This isn’t to say Peep World is the worst movie you’ll ever pop into your Blu-ray player. It’s just that the few funny asides are almost lost in the grueling pace of the film and its various inadequacies. If a comedy script decides to portray unlikeable characters, they better damn well be funny. Otherwise it’s just like watching the same people kill themselves in different ways for 79 minutes. After a while, you’re just pretty numb to the whole thing.
The disc is completely sparse of special features. The oddest thing about the Blu-ray is that the trailer is the first thing they throw at you to watch as an extra. Then, there are some deleted scenes that were certainly deleted for a reason. I know it’s an IFC film, and I’m sure they were on a limited budget, but would it have killed the distributor to have ordered some cast interviews or something? Anything?
Peep World is a cheap Blu-ray, and the film might look slightly better in HD, but I just don’t understand why anyone would shell out the extra few bucks to go Blu with this release. There’s no pocket Blu or BD Live stuff to go with the disc, and the film really isn’t the type of endeavor where picture matters. The whole thing is dialogue, and stuffy dialogue at that. If you already have a Blu-ray player and you liked this film, maybe the price would be worth the purchase; I’m just not seeing it.