Which would you choose? Money, fame, power, and success or poverty, love, and screaming kids? This is the choice Nic Cage faces in his new film, “The Family Man”.
Pushed as the Holiday film of the year, “The Family Man” promised holiday cheer and family man wonder the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”. However, despite the fact that “The Family Man” clearly draws a lot of influence from the aforementioned Jimmy Stuart classic, not only is it NOT the next “It’s a Wonderful Life” its probably enough to make Jimmy Stuart turn in his grave… if he was dead that is.
Its not that “The Family Man” doesn’t mean well, because it does. It battles to give its audience a film that they cannot only identify with, but characters they care about as well. The problem is that the people who wrote it clearly have NO idea what the common man is like, nor do they know anything about the real world. You see, “The Family Man” is about an incredibly wealthy man who sees what his life would be like if he had chosen marriage over incredible wealth and lived only an upper middle class life. Its hard to feel bad for a guy who’s biggest problem is that he can’t afford the 2400 dollar suit he wants and feels like he is to good to drive a mini-van. The Hobbit couldn’t help but cringe as Cage whined about having to live in a palatial 4-bedroom house, complete with elaborate study, and being forced to pick up his own clothes instead of just having “Juanita” do it for him. Oh… poor baby, did we have to make our OWN dinner for once? We are supposed to IDENTIFY with this overfed rich slob? Please.
But even that isn’t really “The Family Man’s” downfall. The fact is that the film just tried to hard to be honest. It takes honesty to an almost brutal level, appropriate say for “A Clockwork Orange” but not a family classic. How many holiday classics have you seen where you get to watch Tea Leoni naked in the shower? Can you imagine Jimmy Stuart running around trying to cheat on his wife? Or perhaps you’d prefer to see Stuart prancing around in his tight little undies over and over and over? We know people shower, we know guys wear underwear… but generally if you are going to make a holiday classic you focus LESS on the T&A and more on heart.
But at the very least, like any holiday classic, we can hope for a happy ending….. IF WE LIVED IN A DREAM WORLD. It seems that someone thought that happy endings were to overrated and instead decided to go with the more vogue bittersweet ending. So instead of a soul nurturing, joy filled, holiday smile fest, the audience is left with nothing but questions, and an empty feeling in the pit of their stomach.
That’s not to say that “Family Man” doesn’t have bright moments. It does, and it has them in spades. Tea Leoni for instance gives in this Hobbit’s opinion one of the best performances of her entire career, filled with longing, emotion, and heart. But somewhere along the way all this gets lost in a deluge of whiny rich boys and prancing busty blondes. If you listen closely on a quiet movie night, somewhere deep in this film you’ll hear some things that touch you, only to be ripped away from them by the preposterous brutality of it all. Sometimes subtle is better.