• by Wes Singleton

Review: The Family Fang, B-

Rated R, 105 minutes

The familiar yet well-acted and unconventional dramedy "The Family Fang," based on Kevin Wilson's novel of the same, mines family dysfunction through the eyes of performance art. An actress (Nicole Kidman) and her writer brother (Jason Bateman) investigate the mysterious disappearance of their parents (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett), two performance artists known for their elaborate hoaxes. The affecting, dark dramedy "The Family Fang," directed by Bateman, produced by Kidman and written by David Lindsay-Abaire, the playwright and screenwriter behind Kidman's "Rabbit Hole," is a unique, funny/sad and occasionally creepy look at family identity; as quirky as it is, it doesn't shed a vast amount of light onto the subject. Both Kidman and Bateman have taken similar journey's before, Kidman with "Margot at the Wedding" and "Stoker," among others, and Bateman with "The Gift" and "This is Where I Leave You" though both give solid performances here as the siblings (A & B as they're known by their parents) who are rightfully struggling with their identity and careers as adults, and Bateman continues to show promise as a decent director. Also memorable is Walken, as the gruff, controlling Dad, and stage actress Plunkett as their Mom, who has a genuine talent she's hiding from her husband. The best part of the film are those elaborately staged and well-meaning, but largely unnecessary and sometimes off-putting, performance art pieces that include burying their daughter in sand at the beach, a lollipop bank holdup and a sparkly ice skating adventure. The last act and the ending is a bittersweet one, and won't surprise those who have been truly paying attention all along, especially playing to the film's notion that executing great art can be difficult. Serviceable, weird and sometimes darkly funny, "The Family Fang" is a biting, but unsurprising, look at family dysfunction.

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