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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, August 02, 2013

In the Family

Birth, genetics, who looks like or acts like whom doesn't matter. A family is a group of individuals who love, hate, trust, question, need, console, and depend on one another as they grow and mature and learn how to give a little more, take a little less ... all in the same environment, whatever or wherever it may be.

-- "The Lives Behind The Lines ..." [Lynn Johnson]
The ABC Family show The Fosters, as does the network as a whole in a fashion (Gilmore Girls was an earlier show a "family friendly" group, usually a code word for conservative, supported*), suggests the breadth of the term "family." It involves a lesbian couple with the biological son of one, two twins they adopted and the two foster kids they recently took in. The drama includes the father of the teenage son and recently his grandfather.  It is rightly getting kudos as a gem of the season.

The title film is basically about something a 1970s Supreme Court ruling about an extended family reminded us not to do -- "close our eyes to the basic reasons why certain rights associated with the family have been accorded shelter."  It was suggested to me by a reader some time back, but it has recently been available on DVD (had a short run locally, but missed it), so checked it out.  First time the DVD did not only have two discs (extras basically discussing the style of the film and its creation) but an oversized pamphlet that didn't fit in the case of essays by others. 

Very good film, the talent underlined by the fact the star ("Joey," which has a backstory to it) also wrote and directed.  It is amazing what goes into even the crappiest film out there, so a 169 minute effort like this is on another level even without it being so good. I admit to not watching it straight thru -- short attention span with the Internet and all -- but was never bored or anything. The film has a set pace, in effect as low key (if "low key" had a picture next to it, this guy would show up) as the main character. Little music and no montages that I can recall -- we get a feel of the characters raising from watching them have breakfast [the very title of another film on a related subject] and similar things.  Lot of quiet empathy.

The film not only underlines the complexity of family (the lead himself was the product of a foster home, he adopted the name of the person who became his dad), but of sexuality. The lead is a contractor of sorts and met his partner while working on the house of his and his wife (pregnant at the time). The wife dies and he is there to help the guy thru his pain and somehow something happens and they become a couple.  It occurs the other way too, of course -- a person running for mayor of NYC (you know, other than the jerk) is married to someone who at the time considered herself a lesbian.  Sexuality is not black/white, fitting here too since this is also an interracial romance -- Asian and white -- in Tennessee yet.

The sense of place (strangely, the credits has it being filmed in NY! did I read that right?!)  is important to the film, since it adds flavor to the process. An Asian with a Southern accent? Who knew such a thing occurred?  The film takes place in the early 2000s, so you think he would not have as hard of a time finding a lawyer after the aunt takes their son away (his partner died in a car crash, but never re-wrote his will, since people don't expect to die in car crashes). I would note that the scene felt like it might have been a mistake -- the way it happens makes her look like a total, I'll be crude, bitch. We don't see it, but it must have been very traumatic for the six year old son.  There was other ways to go that would still be pretty bad without a glorified form of kidnapping. You can understand why it was done that way, but it felt off when it occurred, dramatically so.  I guess there is more than one way to read the situation.

Anyway, check out the film to see a powerful (and heartbreaking at times) story and act of film-making. The top link can get you some background.  Lots to like, including his comment, amazed, that anyone would doubt he was the kid's dad. The supporting cast, mainly (I recognized one person in a small role) non-big names, were also excellent, especially the person playing the young son.  The guy who eventually becomes his lawyer also has a plum role and some plum dialogue. I can see the person who recommended this film saying something like he did. Thanks for the heads up.  Oh, since I know a couple, the scene in the classroom is great too.

ETA: The lawyer's little speech to Joey is a key moment in the film and an excerpt is even used in the trailer. The scene is excellent for various reasons, including how Joey is shot with a focus on the expression on Joey's face as he listens. It is a highlight of movie-making.


* The show had some conservative aspects, which on some level should not surprise, since it is about a teen that not only had her baby, but who became a major success story through hard work and continued to pine for the father of the child.  I liked the story a lot in its early years, but in time, did feel it cheated the audience. And, the slut shaming of Paris really rankled. The character also became something of a caricature though overall that happened to others as well, including at times the leads.

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