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‘You Can Choose Your Family’ (2018 Nantucket Film Festival review)

Produced by Miranda Bailey, Amanda Marshall,
Karen Kehela Sherwood
Written by Glen Lakin
Directed by Miranda Bailey
Starring Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller,
Anna Gunn, Samantha Mathis,
Alex Karpovsky, Danielle Campbell

 

Logan Miller stars as Philip, a teenager and aspiring musician who has a terribly strained relationship with his stern father (Gaffigan).

Dad runs his father’s ketchup company and expects his son to follow in his footsteps. Philip, however, not only has no interest in doing this, he has no intention on living anywhere near his hometown after graduation.

After his father forbids him to attend NYU to study music, a bitter and frustrated Philip takes off with his best friend, Lewis, to party at a nearby lake resort, telling his mother he’s studying at Lewis’ place.
While hanging at the pool, Philip spies his father, who is supposedly on one of his frequent business trips to Japan. After secretly following his dad, Philip sees pop enter a nice, suburban home to greet – an entirely different family!

Yep, dad’s not only a bigamist, he’s got two grown children with his other wife as well.

After the initial shock and hurt, Philip confronts his father, careful not to give the game away to his second family – the better to blackmail dad.

You Can Choose Your Family takes some nice turns throughout the remainder of the running time, some expected, others not.

I liked the believable and satisfying way that Philip slowly but surely begins to enjoy being his dad’s accomplice, keeping the ruse going, and appreciated the understated emotion of the film’s final shot.
Miller is quite good, as is everyone here (great to see Samantha Mathis!), and Gaffigan is well-suited to his role. He is very funny but also complex; an unabashed prick at first, the film sympathizes with him while never forgetting that what he’s doing is potentially disastrous.

Family is an interesting take on the “road not taken” story in that Gaffigan did indeed take both roads offered to him and in middle-age is beginning to see the consequences.

The film does overdo it at times, becoming a bit too frantic and silly here and there, but overall director Miranda Bailey and writer Glen Lakin keep things plausible and engrossing.

I was also entertained by the playful opening credits and happy that the sporadic 90s references weren’t too intrusive. The 90s setting also allowed for some fun tunes on the soundtrack, again without overplaying the nostalgia card.

In addition to being an absorbing coming-of-age comedy/drama, You Can Choose Your Family is one of the more successful examinations of a dysfunctional father/son relationship in a while.

A pleasant surprise.

 

 

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