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Laura Steinel’s charming directorial debut, “Family,” is a riotously funny look at what happens when a woman is forced to step away from her insanely busy life in order to connect with her young niece.
Kate (Taylor Schilling) doesn’t know anything about children aside from the fact that they’re something that other people have. She is laser-focused on her career and moving up the food chain at her office. Nothing else really matters to her and, as a result, she’s made her fair share of enemies at work.
When her brother and sister-in-law (Eric Edelstein and Allison Tolman) call her in a panic to watch their teenage daughter while they go out of town for a family emergency, it’s not something that Kate wants to do. At all. She somewhat begrudgingly agrees to one night and is soon face-to-face with 13-year-old Maddie (Bryn Vale), an awkward tomboy who shows up each week to ballet class at the urging of her mother but sneaks next door for karate lessons from Sensei Pete (Bryan Tyree Henry from “Atlanta,” who steals every scene he’s in).
Because she is so self-absorbed and unfiltered in every moment of her life, Kate doesn’t have the first idea of how to connect with her niece. When she does start to listen to stories of being bullied at school, Kate can certainly relate, and the walls she has built around herself slowly begin to chip away. What was supposed to be one night watching Maddie becomes a full week, and it takes Kate completely out of her comfort zone at work, causing her to start missing details in a project to land a big new client.
Kate’s history of vicious tactics in the office starts to backfire on her when a younger and very motivated young woman named Erin (Jessie Ennis) starts to beat her at her own game to get ahead. At a certain point, that hard-shelled exterior slowly begins to melt away as Kate becomes just as passionate about helping Maddie as she’s ever been about being successful in her career.
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Did I neglect to mention that the movie includes lots and lots of Juggalos? Yes, the true highlight of the entire film is watching Schilling, in full face paint, on stage with the Insane Clown Posse at the Gathering of the Juggalos. It’s one of the most unexpected and amusing plot points I’ve seen at the festival this year.
And even though they don’t have as much screen time, it’s worth noting a few other cast members who have some shining moments: Schilling’s “Orange Is The New Black” co-star Natasha Lyonne turns up as a full-blown Juggalo, SNL star Kate McKinnon is predictably hysterical as an uptight neighbor, and Matt Walsh from “Veep” has a few great scenes as a mistreated co-worker of Kate’s.
“Family” screens again at 11:30 a.m. March 15 at the Alamo South Lamar. Grade B