From the basic premise right on down to the font on the poster, the new dramedy The Family Fang reeks of Wes Anderson. (Which is to say it reeks of J.D. Salinger, but tomato-tomahto.) The film, which has been ambling from festival to festival since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, nicks the core concept shared by both The Royal Tenenbaums and Salinger’s collection of stories about the Glass family for its plot, adapted from Kevin Wilson’s novel of the same name. But while the elements of indie-rock soundtracks and famous families begetting screwed-up children may mark them as kin, hopefully there’s more to The Family Fang than idle Wes Anderson homage.
For one, the reviews from TIFF would suggest that Nicole Kidman gives an uncommonly strong performance here as one half of the brother-sister duo at the center of the film. She’s Annie Fang, director Jason Bateman pulls double duty as her brother Baxter, and they’ve both had it up to here with their parents, a pair of celebrated performance artists played by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett. After a freak potato incident leaves Baxter on the mend, the whole family convenes on Mom and Dad’s place for a family reunion fraught with long-dormant tensions and quite possibly murder. Baxter and Annie’s parents mysteriously vanish, and while the police fear the worst, they’re confident that their disappearance is nothing more than an especially conceptual prank.
To a certain sort of viewer, the messed-up family angle, Wes Anderson influence, and actor-turned-director pedigree all mark red flags, but there’s plenty of cause for optimism on this project. Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (of Rabbit Hole and Shrek: The Musical fame) drew up the script, Kidman’s still a powerhouse actress, and the notices have been mostly positive. Plus, hey, look, it’s Kathryn Hahn! She’s just the best.
The Family Fang opens in New York on April 29, then goes national and On Demand on May 6.