A dysfunction injunction

The Gripe

the gripe

October 27, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

It's time to call a moratorium on the dysfunctional-family flick.

Narcissistic, adulterous or conflicted moms, distant dads, drug-riddled youngsters - don't we get enough of them on "cutting-edge" TV series these days?

Ryan Murphy, who created one of those series, Nip/Tuck, seized on Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs' acclaimed memoir of a loony adolescence, for the comedy-drama opening today. But all he does with this prized dysfunctional-family property is turn it into a crazed Carter-era comic strip: For Better or for Worse on acid.

The genre may have reached its natural conclusion with several recent high points, including Mike Binder's ruefully uproarious The Upside of Anger, Noah Baumbach's acid and insightful The Squid and the Whale, and Jane Anderson's deceptively complex and moving The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

The secret behind the well-deserved success of Little Miss Sunshine was that it only seemed to be about a dysfunctional family. What made it refreshing was that it depicted a family improvising its way toward functionality. Let's hope that's the wave of the future.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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