Tag Archives: Anna Gunn

SXSW: You Can Choose Your Family

I chose this movie because: Jim Gaffigan. God I love him. He’s a stand-up comic whose act for many years concentrated on his 5-kid, 7-person family living in a cramped 2-bedroom apartment in New York City. He’s a family man and a good Catholic whose only sin is gluttony. I shouldn’t like him or relate to him, but he’s a genuinely funny guy, and I can never get enough (he’s got some comedy specials on Netflix and a couple of books at your local library and commercials for mini vans and KFC). So when I heard he was in a movie screening at SXSW, I was on board, no questions asked.

In You Can Choose Your Family, he plays Frank, a father and husband who is often absent, travelling on business. Once high school sweethearts, his wife (Anna Gunn) feels like she hardly knows him anymore, and his son Philip (Logan Miller) feels like his father MV5BMTU3NzI1NTc2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzQ1MTc3NDM@._V1_has never known him. Philip and his father are always clashing, and Philip can’t wait to get far, far away from his family when he goes to NYU next year. But for now he’s trapped in his father’s house, living by the rules that Frank isn’t even there to enforce. So when Frank flies to Japan on business, Philip thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to go blow off some spring break steam. But what he finds there is not what he bargained for: it’s his dad…and his dad’s second family. Oh, fudge.

So of course Philip blackmails him for all he’s worth. But now that there’s a crack in the secret…well, cracks always get bigger, don’t they? Director Miranda Bailey bills this as a comedy, and the Jim Gaffigan casting would seem to back that up, but this is a pretty unfunny situation that I suppose we’d better laugh at, because the other option is unthinkable. Bailey admits that she’s got some daddy issues to work through, and really, who doesn’t, but laughing at them kept me squirming, and huffing, and burying my head in my hands. If you really stop and think about how you’d feel – as either the child or the spouse – having your relationship and in fact your entire life be usurped by replacements – well, that’s a horrible feeling. And horrible feelings can only exist for so long on film before we’re obligated to break them up with some laughs. Is this a comedy? I wouldn’t go that far. But it was an interesting, sometimes funny, film that will make you appreciate the family you do have, whatever that is.

 

 

Note: this film has since been renamed Being Frank.

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Equity

equity-is-such-a-good-wall-street-movie-you-almost-forget-that-all-the-characters-are-womenEquity is a cold, unblinking look at Wall Street’s backrooms, through the eyes of a female dealmaker who’s trying to recover from a failed transaction. Her client’s shares traded too low during the initial public offering, and now she’s got a target on her back. Equity throws us into the immediate aftermath and we watch her as she tries to save her career by putting together a bigger, better deal.

Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) is well cast as the investment banker protagonist. She is cold, smart, and driven, a shark among fish. She never backs down from anyone, and gets us to root for her character without being particularly endearing or warm. That is Equity’s strongest trait: it gets us to respect both Gunn’s character and her antagonist, federal prosecutor Alysia Reiner, without resorting to familiar gender stereotypes for wither character.

equity-2If you have at least a passing interest in finance, Equity’s story will draw you in and keep your attention until the end, avoiding most cliches throughout, at least when it comes to the main females. The male supportung characters fare less well, as they are all thinly sketched stereotypes (e.g., sexist boss, backstabbing boyfriend, and frat boy internet sensation). It is refreshing, though, for women to be the most compelling and realistic characters for a change.

Equity is no more or less than a Wall Street drama. It is a well-done addition to the genre, but feels somewhat constrained by its chosen niche. With that said, I appreciated that Equity unapologetically shows that women can be just as ruthless as men and shouldn’t be held to a higher standard based on outdated conceptions of femininity or motherhood. I also liked that the writers did not force a tidy resolution on the audience (which may be tied to the fact that a spun-off TV show is in development).

In the end Equity intentionally leaves the audience cold, but the challenge to gender stereotypes sticks even as the story beats start to fade from memory. I’d count Equity as a success thematically, and it’s entertaining to boot. In financial terms, it’s not a career defining deal but it’s still one that deserves handshakes and high fives all around on closing.