Saturday, May 5, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: In the Family

Director: Patrick Wang
Writer: Patrick Wang


Sebastian Banes ... Chip Hines
Patrick Wang ... Joey Williams
Trevor St. John ... Cody Hines
Lisa Altomare ... Betsy
Susan Kellermann ... Marge Hawks
Conan McCarty ... Ed
Harriett D. Foy ... Sharon
Zachary Sayle ... Brent
Georgie DeNoto ... Dennis
Juliette Angelo ... Erin
Eisa Davis ... Anne Carter
Peter Hermann ... Dave Robey
Gina Tognoni ... Nurse Jackson
Kit Flanagan ... Nurse Edwards
Park Overall ... Sally Hines
Kelly McAndrew ... Eileen Robey
Gregory Jones ... Doctor Sills
Elaine Bromka ... Gloria
Julia Motyka ... Rebecca Hines
Zoe Winters ... Helen
Brian Murray ... Paul Hawks
Chip Taylor ... Darryl Hines
Bill Mootos ... Sam
Jake Mosser ... Police Officer
Matthew Boston ... Charles Grant
Michael Scott King ... Security Guard
Christina Hogue ... Cheryl
Eugene Brell ... Jefferson Robinson
Marsha Waterbury ... Court Reporter

How do you define family? Most think of a Daddy, Mommy and a child--maybe a pet or two. In this film, six-year-old Chip has two Daddies. Cody is his birth father. Joey became Cody's partner after Chip's mom died shortly after Chip's birth. That's pretty extraordinary considering the family lives in a small East Tennessee town.

Up until Cody's accident, they're all one big happy family. The in-laws accept Joey and everything's going well. The first signs of dissolution occur after Cody's accident when the staff at the hospital will only talk to "family" and he's excluded from seeing his partner before he dies.

Then, Cody's sister drops the news on Joey that Cody left her as executor of his will six years before. She's got sole custody of Chip.

Six years of raising and loving his little boy are gone. Now, we find out what really defines family.

"In the Family" is the brain-child of Patrick Wang, who had no experience with gay families but like every brilliant writer wanted to stretch himself. He did just that, placing the family in a rural conservative setting with an Asian father.

Mr. Wang believed so much in the story, he financed the film himself. But, please don't ever associate this indie with anything but top-quality. Wang's performance had most of the audience in tears. Sebastian Banes (who was six at the time he played Chip) was spot-on with his lines and so natural with both his Dads you really could believe he was their son. And Trevor St. John played the "heart of the pack" so beautifully you could see why the family unit fell apart without him. So many times, there just was not a dry eye in the house.

What I love about this film is that it clearly depicts the reason why civil marriages are so important for gay and lesbian couples. Too often, the survivor is left with nothing when the family comes to claim what belonged to their blood relation and the law is not on their side. This is a grievous wrong when two people have worked years to build up a home, family, raise children. For these short three hours, we're walking in this family's shoes and seeing the devastation and unfairness of the situation--particularly to young Chip--and it truly does hurt.

One small issue the Knoxville, Tennessee audience had was that the film took place in East Tennessee, but was clearly filmed elsewhere. (Yonkers, New York, actually) Mr. Wang was there along with Park Overall and provided the answer. He was way out of his comfort zone financing, producing and starring in his story and wanted to film on his home turf so he had his own bed to go home to and friends around him. We all pretty much unanimously forgave him.

Oh, and considering the recent "Gateway to Sexual Activity" bill which passed the Tennessee legislature, "hit man" Chip Taylor's music might just become illegal in the state as a "gateway" to gay sex. :) Taylor also played a small role in the film and was the inspiration for young Chip's name.

Yes, "In the Family" was well worth full price. I'd strongly recommend it to fans of indie films and good strong family drama. It's a heartfelt beautiful film which I hope does not go unnoticed in next year's awards.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, May 2012

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