When GJ returns home from school, his mother, Cindy, has a surprise for him: “I quit drinking!” An even bigger surprise than her 15 months of sobriety? She’s also spent all of his savings. So it turns out he’s home for good. Deprived of film school, he turns the camera on his fuck-up Mom and her has-been rock-star husband, Frank.
This film is actually a dramatic reenactment of a documentary of the same name, by G.J. Echternkamp. And his parents are undoubtedly larger than life, which in this case is a kind euphemism for colourfully pathetic, hopeless losers. Rene Russo and Oliver Platt play the titular characters and you’ve got to admire their abandon. They each give strong performances, and you’ve got to give props to Russo in particular for her willingness to throw herself into such an unflattering role.
When GJ has enough of their codependent craziness he seeks out his biological father for some commiseration but he surprisingly turns out to be in Frank’s corner. It’s way too easy for GJ to blame his struggles on his underachieving parents, but when that’s not getting him anywhere, what then?
Watching this film and reminding myself that Frank and Cindy are real people makes this a particularly excruciating experience. And to be honest, the screenwriters trying too hard to stick to the source material means this movie has no real backbone. It ambles but doesn’t amount to much. And weirdly, GJ seems to be the least developed character – it’s his story but he’s a pretty passive player. And that feels ironic since Echternkamp himself helped bring this script to life, and he’s also sitting in the director’s seat, although at times he seems to forget about the advantages of feature vs documentary – he could make the scenes look amazing yet seems to enjoy filming in dank little corners.
At any rate, this is clearly a personal film for Echternkamp. There’s catharsis happening here. And self-indulgence. Lots of that. But Russo and Platt are good, good enough to make up for the film making foibles.
Oh goody, messed up parents. They make good film fodder. Too bad it didn’t work out here.