In the last twenty years of so it is generally a rule that movies dealing with religious characters portray them in a condescending light—that is, they are often overly simplistic, poor souls who are unenlightened and backwards. This is not the case in Anne Renton’s new movie The Perfect Family. Kathleen Turner turns in one of her best performances as a devout Catholic woman who must face her imperfect family.
Turner plays a suburban mom, Eileen Cleary, who knows how to keep up appearances, both for herself and for the church. Such a character is often painted as shallow, manipulative and stupid, but the level of depth and complexity that both Turner and screenwriters Claire V. Riley and Paula Goldberg imbibe her with infuse this film with a breath of realistic fresh air.
Cleary decides to run for her local parish’s Catholic Woman of the Year award and must come to terms with the face she presents to the public and the reality behind the mask of religious perfection—a reality that is represented by a less than religiously perfect family: a recovering alcoholic husband (Michael McGrady), a lesbian daughter (Emily Deschanel) and her divorced, womanizing son (Jason Ritter).
Turner and her fellow thespians perform with humor, sensitivity and strength and the film becomes more about learning to gradually accept different lifestyles and lifestyle choices than harshly judging religious beliefs. Childish black and white thinking is replaced by the gray space of adulthood. In the end, The Perfect Family is a heartwarming and honest portrayal of modern life that, despite moments of Oprah or Good Housekeeping predictability, hits the spot and makes a great emotional escape from many of the action movies playing now.