Review: Father Figures

Review: Father Figures

You ever been to that place they call ‘hell’? I’m only asking because I know some have said they’ve experienced a version of ‘heaven’ before being jump-started back to life, and I was wondering if anyone encountered the opposite side of the spectrum. Because I have. And I need someone to talk to. Here’s my story:

I wandered into a dark auditorium, a room where cell phones weren’t allowed even as people promptly turned them back on after they walked past security. It was an early screening for a film entitled Father Figures, and judging by the promotional material, I prepared myself for a stinker, albeit a mildly diverting one. The show was half-full at the time of my arrival, and my girlfriend and I got our seats and waited for the screen to switch from the traditional ‘early-showing’ persuasion to tweet and share your thoughts after the film. We stared at the waxed, airbrushed faces of Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, Ed Helms, Terry Bradshaw, Katt Williams, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, and J.K. Simmons for more than a half-hour. I saw things in their eyes. Terrible, unspeakable things. Like a prophecy beckoning out to the populace in a frozen scream: “Don’t do it!  Leave now or be damned forever!” I’m positive Terry Bradshaw shouted that as he cackled, as I think I saw his poster-face mouth move. The wait was made even more excruciating by the band of seniors trekking out for an R-rated comedy, loudly expressing their feelings on The Disaster Artist and complaining when they had to watch trailers for films they would inevitably see on a Friday matinee anyway. Their abandon towards life and common etiquette is…impressive, and yet, it was the stage set for one of the strangest Hollywood comedy productions in recent memory.

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Picture this: a gender-reversed Mamma Mia with traditional road-trip dynamics, but with little to no chemistry, inexplicable events, outrageous subplots, and a genuine dive towards the emotional with a twist that the film, somehow, plays completely seriously. Father Figures is both a dramedy and a farce, a film of utter incompetence and dastardly construction, a film which suddenly, instantly transforms into antimatter when it is unfolding on screen. My face was consistently in a state of awed confusion, one which I haven’t experienced since my first screening of The Room. But of course, the tenor is different, with the name of the game not being unintentional comedy but flatlining silence, Hollywood stars scraping the bottom of the barrel, and two scenes with Christopher Walken for no real reason. This is a high-gloss piece of baffling garbage, and a movie where no one must’ve spoken the truth during principal photography; the truth that nothing is remotely working. Not a single part of Father Figures is successful, unless you count its intended reaction to be a slack-jawed befuddlement at the audacity of its choices and the lame-brained directions it takes its audience. This movie frames the fact that Ed Helms’ character wears glasses as a twist.

Yes, in Father Figures, Ed Helms’ character doesn’t actually need glasses. He wears them to hide his true self. This is revealed in the guise of a twist. This is one of the many things that happen for no real reason, and even if they have a reason, the scene or action itself is just plain absurd! Seemingly edited with iMovie (there are montages in here that would make De Palma weep) and lensed by the same director of photography as Field of Dreams, Pleasantville, and Father of The Bride, it is a film which looks surprising beautiful in moments, all while pieced together via a script of obvious functionality and oddball inconsistency. The director, Lawrence Sher, has been a cinematographer for films such as Paul, War Dogs, The Hangover Part III, Due Date, and I Love You, Man. This is his first directorial effort. One question: why? How? Who? Oh, wait, that’s three questions? Sorry, I’m still in hell, I think. But the questions still stand, and by the end of Father Figures, my sanity was itself in question. Deeply in question.

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