The Family Fang DVD Review: A Beautiful Mix of Sharp Comedy and Poignant Drama

What is Art? And if you are an artist, what do you sacrifice for your art?
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Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang use public disruption to create their art. Once they become parents they include their children "A" (for Annie) and "B" (for Baxter) in their antics as well. From pretending they are homeless street children who are jeered by adult onlookers to an elaborate bank-robbery stunt, art becomes the family pastime for all of the Fangs. Their performance art divides the art world but garners devoted fans along the way.

Annie grows up to be a talented but troubled actress, and Baxter becomes a best-selling author who self-medicates. However both of them have moved far away from their parents and do not want to deal with them. After a strange accident lands him in the hospital, Baxter finds out that the hospital has called his parents to come and get him. Baxter reaches out to Annie and begs her to fly back east to rescue him from the parents he hoped to escape. Annie reluctantly agrees to join him and the Family Fang is once again reunited as they return to the family home.

Once the family is back together, Caleb and Camille try to pull off another performance-art piece at a local amusement park. When the piece fails to illicit the reaction that Caleb was hoping for, the elder Fangs decide to take a road trip to clear their heads. Not long after, Camille and Caleb hit the road, the local sheriff visits the Fang home to inform Annie and Baxter that the family car has been found full of blood but without their parents. While Baxter fears the worst has happened, Annie believes it to be just another one of her father's elaborate performance pieces. The Fang children then set out to find the truth behind their parents' disappearance.

Since we see the Fangs over the years through flashbacks, the four main characters are each played by different actors and actresses during their varying stages of life. Baxter is played by three different actors: Jack McCarthy plays young Baxter Fang, Kyle Donnery plays teenaged Baxter, and Jason Bateman plays Baxter as an adult. (Bateman also directs the film.)Annie is played by three different actresses: Mackenzie Brooke Smith plays young Annie Fang, Taylor Rose plays teen Annie, and Nicole Kidman plays Annie as an adult. Camille Fang is played by two different actresses: Kathryn Hahn plays Camille Fang as a younger adult woman and MaryAnn Plunkett plays Camille as an older woman.  Caleb Fang is played by two actors: Jason Butler Harner plays Caleb Fang as a younger adult man while Christopher Walken plays Caleb in his latter years. All of these actors and actresses play their parts well and help weave a narrative whose momentum carries the four main characters throughout the film.

The Family Fang has a beautiful mix of sharp comedy and poignant drama. My only critique is that the pacing of the film is a bit slow at points and could have been served by a tighter edit. But overall, this is still a really good film. Now available on DVD and VOD, it is rated R and runs 105 minutes. 

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