- Last Updated: 1:49 PM, May 4, 2012
- Posted: 10:43 PM, May 3, 2012
THE PERFECT FAMILY
Turner CLASSIC. Running time: 84 minutes. PG-13 (references to alcoholism, abortion). At the Chelsea, the Empire.
Kathleen Turner, in what’s advertised as her first lead movie role in 18 years — we’ll forget her top billing in horrors like “Baby Geniuses” and “Prince of Central Park” — demonstrates that her formidable acting chops are fully intact in “The Perfect Family.”
“I don’t have to think — I’m Catholic,” the erstwhile voice of Jessica Rabbit growls deeply in a bravura performance as Eileen Cleary, a devout middle-aged volunteer who learns she’s a finalist for Catholic Woman of the Year in her small New Jersey town.
With formerly closeted gay TV icon Richard Chamberlain playing her parish priest, there’s little doubt that the film’s political sympathies do not lie with the Catholic League.
But even if debuting director Anne Renton can’t always finesse the wild tonal shifts in Paula Goldberg and Claire V. Riley’s script — from slapstick to heavy family drama — she has the good sense to give Turner, who remains one of the most compelling performers of her generation, room to work.
Her Eileen becomes positively obsessed with the award when she learns that it carries a promise of absolution for all past sins — and in Eileen’s view, she has a whopper, which I won’t give away.
The only catch is that Eileen has to throw a dinner for the archbishop to show off her “perfect” Catholic family — which, of course, is anything but how our heroine sees it.
Her lesbian daughter (Emily Deschanel) is newly pregnant, and is planning to marry her girlfriend (Angelique Cabral). At the same time, her son (Jason Ritter) has abandoned his wife and two kids for an affair with a Protestant manicurist (Kristen Dalton).
Eileen’s husband (Michael McGrady) may seem like an easygoing fireman, but he’s a recovering alcoholic whose good nature is sorely tested by his homophobic spouse’s willingness to all but disown the kids to win the award.
All of these actors bring dimensions to their characters that aren’t necessarily in the script, as do Sharon Lawrence as Eileen’s sanctimonious chief rival for the award and Elizabeth Pena as the sympathetic mother of Eileen’s daughter’s partner.
Make no mistake, though: “The Perfect Family’’ is Kathleen Turner’s show. And when a series of crises forces Eileen to re-examine her values and beliefs, Turner rises magnificently to the occasion.
Welcome back to the movies.