It’s a truism that parents screw up their kids. Putting aside the just flat-out bad parents who actually either physically or emotionally abusive, we all bring our own insecurities and issues with us into parenthood, and some of that is going to leak out into our kids. So we can try to do better than our parents did with us but we’re still going to do some damage because we’re human. But few of us take glee in doing so.
The Family Fang is about a family that kind of falls into that latter category. Baxter and Annie Fang (Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman, respectively) are the now-grown children of Caleb and Maryann (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett), a couple of well-known performance artists. Back when their kids were younger, Caleb and Maryann used to involve their kids in their work, something that’s lead to a fair amount of resentment. Now the older Fangs have disappeared and while Baxter thinks it’s all part of some elaborate prank, Annie is convinced they’ve actually fallen into danger and so the two set out to prove one side or the other right, bringing their emotional baggage with them on the way.
The poster shows the main cast and basically establishes the premise in a roundabout way that’s helped if you’ve also seen the trailer. Bateman is front and center along with Kidman and the others, shown as paper cutouts that have been placed on a display board on a workbench. So in the picture there’s a Ferris Wheel, city skyline and more but you can also see the glue and scissors being used to construct the scent. There’s no text of anything to help explain the plot but you kind of get the idea that Bateman and Kidman are just props, being used by someone else.
The trailer starts out with Baxter explaining that he’s in the hospital as the result of a potato gun incident. When his family shows up they’re similarly bandaged out of solidarity. We find out those parents are famous performance artists who involved their kids in their pieces. One day they go missing and while Baxter thinks they may actually be gone, Annie thinks this is just part of some elaborate prank and that they’ll surface eventually. She convinces him to join her to look for them and the rest of the movie ensues.
It’s a good trailer that sells what looks like a decent movie about how parents do or don’t impact the lives of their adult children. That’s not exactly unfamiliar territory but adding the outrageous element of the parents being showboating performance artists allows for a slightly new take on the material. Kidman here looks like she gives a great, subdued performance as the skeptic in all this while Bateman looks like someone who’s just happy taking the lowest resistance route and accepting things as they are.
Online and Social
The official website is the rare Tumblr blog that actually looks like a Tumblr blog, with a series of updates on the page in reverse-chronological order. Those posts have updates on the release schedule, promotional images, stills from the movie and more. There aren’t a lot of posts, but it’s a legit blog and that’s notable. It also means there aren’t the usual sections on the site, though it does open with a trailer pop-up player and if you click the “Watch Now” button at the top a GoWatchIt window opens letting you either set a reminder for when it’s in a theater near you or download it from iTunes now.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve seen on the advertising front. There may have been some online ads run, particularly in New York where the movie started a limited run last week, but I can’t be sure.
Media and Publicity
The movie had its premiere at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, where it got decent reviews and buzz for Bateman’s turn as director. Shortly after that premiere it was picked up by Starz for distribution.
Kidman made occasional comments at various events about the movie and working with Bateman, but Bateman himself was the focus of the limited press push, which made sense since he was not only the star but also the director. So there’s this interview where he talked about how he got involved in the project and what it was like to tackle this subject matter and this one, which was out right around the time the movie screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.
There’s a nice tidy little campaign here. I can’t say it’s hugely innovative as it looks like many of the other “adult kids are mildly resentful toward their unorthodox parents while also enjoying a successful liberal arts career” genre, but that’s not necessarily a knock against it. Bateman, Kidman and the rest look like they’re putting in great, understated performances and I’m excited to see another directorial outing by Bateman, who in the last few years seems to be hitting a new artistic stride.
With movies like this there’s often an implicit understanding that the best stuff isn’t going to be found in the marketing and I’m banking on that being true here too. By that I mean the real draw isn’t in the broad story beats that are portrayed in a trailer but in the smaller moments in between those beats that add shading and contrast to the story. I’m guessing that’s going to be the case here as well. Yes, this is part of the “privileged white people problems” genre that I’ve criticized recently and many of my objections apply here too. But I’m hoping the story at least has something original to say.