Monday, November 27, 2006

Arts: Film: Family Law

Ham-Fisted Family Film Bids for Foreign Oscar

Derecho de familia (Family Law). Director Daniel Burman. Starring Daniel Hendler, Arturo Goetz. Opens December 8th.

Photograph provided by IFC First Take

By Liz Garber-Paul

      Think monotonous story line, marital arguments that have been played out a thousand times on Everybody Loves Raymond and a cliché scene of a young father forgetting his own pop’s birthday. Now think of how you’d rather spend your time.
      Daniel Burman’s new film Family Law is the story of Ariel Perelman Jr.’s relationship with his father, Perelman Sr., and his toddler son, Gaston. When Perelman Jr.’s office building closes for a month, he doesn’t tell his wife and spends his time visiting his father’s work and his son’s school. It dawns on him that his primary role has changed from son to father. Burman attempts to show all the parts of Perelman Jr.’s life: law professor, ethical lawyer and family man. The film, which is Argentina’s official Academy Award entry this year, uses Perelman Jr. as an all-knowing narrator to tell the tired story.
      In trying to show everything, the film tells nothing. It comes off as montage: a series of clips from an ordinary life. To show his insecurity, Perelman marries a student. To show his shifting sense of responsibility, his office desk is covered in pictures of his wife and son, but those of his father are hidden in the drawer. To show his acceptance of being a father, he participates in the father-son swim class, despite his fear of half-naked men.
      According to the director/producer/writer, the film is supposed to show how men change from son to father. But slowly, it becomes an onslaught of nostalgic anecdotes disguised as scenes and offers nothing new to the question of what it means to be a man in modern society.
      While actor Daniel Hendler gives believable emotion to the main character, the script leaves much to be desired. There is no understatement here—just scene after predictable scene that, while sometimes amusing, leave the viewer with one-dimensional characters and a story so simple that even little Gaston would get it.
Rating: five hairy men in a swimming pool

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