A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this Australian film is positioned as a quirky family comedy, it's actually quite dark. The main character is a comedienne who's trying to make a last run for stardom just as her sons become more independent, which leaves her feeling abandoned and threatened. A couple's frequent sex scenes are often fairly graphic (bare breasts, but no genitals), as is the language ("f--k," "s--t," and more). Characters drink freely, and their drinking leads to behavior they later regret (for example, a mother threatens to abandon her children and orders them out of her house).
What's the story?
Jean Dwight (Brenda Blethyn) is a short-order cook who once tasted fame and desperately wants it again in director Cherie Nowlan's dramedy INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS. Jean used to be semi-famous -- hobnobbing with the likes of Benny Hill -- until she met her now ex-husband, one-hit-wonder singer John (Frankie J. Holden), and followed him to his native Australia. They proceeded to have two sons -- Mark (Richard Wilson), who's disabled (his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck too long), and Tim (Khan Chittenden), who's grown up to be Jean's dutiful sidekick, driving her to her two-bit gigs. When Mark starts taking phone calls from his "girlfriend," who's also disabled -- and, worse, Tim falls in love with the free-spirited (and, much to Jean's dismay, strong-willed) Jill (Emma Booth) -- Jean feels her precarious world tumbling around her feet.
Is it any good?
Blethyn ably maneuvers in a role that careens from "raunchy homemaker" (the name of Jean's act) to terminally disappointed and lonely empty-nester. It's an existence her character is anxious to avoid but can't. It's an admirable turn -- loud, brassy and selfish -- but only just. When the laughs finally give way to tears, you do feel sorry for her.
Booth makes a worthy foe for Blethyn's Jean -- her Jill is insecure but determined to make her relationship work -- and Chittenden is persuasive enough as the devoted son who finally lives for himself, despite the costs. (Wilson, meanwhile, gets an A for effort but strays out of character so often that it's distracting.) But despite its mostly strong performances and fine script, the film can't quite get the crowd on its feet. Its tone shifts awkwardly: Is it a comedy about familial love and hate? A realistic study of mother-in-law/future-daughter-in-law jealousy? A tragedy about lives not lived enough? And the ending is all too trite for a movie that exhibits, at moments, such delicious bite.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it's like to have a family member who's physically or mentally disabled. What kind of responsibilities and pressures does that add to the family dynamic? How do the Dwights rise to the occasion (or not)? How often do you see families like the Dwights on TV or in the movies? Also, what about Tim and Jill's relationship? Although it appears to revolve mostly around sex, it also seems quite loving, too -- is that realistic? Does it seem like they're rushing things?
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