The ideal family: a scene from the film
“All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And Lucìa’s family, like Anna Karenina’s, is at the same time happy face, with behind it a burden full of profound disappointment. As we will point out in this one review of The ideal family, the game of appearances is only a mirror for the larks towards a sense of lack and emptiness that tempts and annihilates wives and husbands to whom life seems to have already reserved everything, while the illusion of being able to still feel a glimmer of carefree withers like a rose in winter. Yet, what could have presented itself as a human discourse born in the heart of the encounter / clash between two worlds at the antipodes (bourgeois on one side, humbler families on the other) leaves room for a gallery of deflated gags in their hilarious charge, and predictable situations that extend the distances with their audience, representative of a universe like the real one that would have had so much to share with the one here (re) proposed.
The ideal family: the plot
The ideal family: a moment in the film
We are in Madrid. More precisely in the upper districts of the Spanish capital, where everything is clean, elegant and the wives compete with their maids to control the house (and the position of the photos on the furniture). And it is here, in the Madrid “that counts” (but only for those who live by appearance and superficiality) that Lucia lives, a precise woman of class and solid ideas and principles. She rich and refined, obsessed with order and decorum, she devotes herself full time to her family, always making it (in her opinion) better. A run-up to the concept of perfection that especially affects her beloved son, Pablo (Gonzalo Ramos), a brilliant and kind-hearted lawyer. To shake this crystal ball in which Lucia has isolated herself is Sara, betrothed to her son. She is a fitness teacher in a gym she aspires to be a partner in, daughter of Miguel (Jose Coronado), an ebony carver, and Amparo (Pepa Aniorte), the first woman to drive a 14-meter coach. Together with her parents, a simple couple, not very cultured and forced to share an apartment with a son completely disconnected from reality, Sara will turn Lucia’s world upside down with her different ideas about family, decorum, and order. It will be a clash between visions of life, in which the woman will be called to deal with the more human and fragile side of herself, between temptations, betrayals and rebirths.
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The ideal family: a picture from the film
He wants to establish a direct dialogue with the reality beyond the screen, The Ideal Family. An attempt at contact made explicit starting from the opening bars of the opera, with that sequence shot ready to linger and browse the life of the bourgeois family of Ernesto and Lucia, where the time of the filmic story and that of the spectator match perfectly, establishing a convergence time that should launch its audience directly into the heart of the story. By emphasizing the characters and elevating every single event to power to the point of exacerbating the reactions of its protagonists with marked expressions, and large and charged gestures, the director Arantxa Echevarria intends to sow in the field of her work visual and mnemonic sprouts that can trigger in the mind of the spectator a relationship of equality and analogy with the story proposed here. Although everything in the world she created is overly emphasized to the point of paroxysm, the director intends to establish a direct connection with the real world, dealing with the strength of a smile on issues of strong social relevance such as prejudice and discrimination, or personal crises generated by power of a glance, or of a simple touch of the hand. Yet, it is precisely in this multi-layered structure, where the story is doubled and each of its narrative levels deserves (or maybe not) to be addressed, that The ideal family stumbles, tearing its own support structure to pieces and thus presenting itself in a confusing and not very credible.
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The ideal family: a sequence from the film
The primary objective underlying the development of the film is therefore missing: Echevarría’s work lacks any form of adherence to reality. The ideal family is presented as a collage of images (s) bound together by a now dried glue, by hands that work absent-mindedly and in bulk. Viewed as a whole, the film lends itself as a work that lacks cohesion, where every line is forced and out of place, and every gag shaky and predictable. The same scene of the meeting between the two families could turn out to be a big-bang of unexpected events and hilarious misunderstandings, woven from a deeper discourse of a social and anthropological matrix, capable of winks at a work like Roman Polanski’s Carnage . By overturning expectations, everything lends itself to showing itself as a series of missed opportunities. If the bright colors, the harmonious light without contrasts, and a direction that hides itself so as to accentuate the importance of the human component entrusted to its characters, takes up and correctly reproduces all the dictates imposed by the comedy genre, it is from the from a narrative point of view, and a montage that is not very compact and full of temporal elisions, which The Ideal Family finds the sacred blades with which to perform its own cinematic Harakiri. By superficially comparing two profound themes full of narrative stimuli such as the funny misunderstandings that can arise from the encounter between two families belonging to two completely contrasting environments (social, but also urban), that a crisis as much geriatric as it is marital screenwriter fails to give the right timing to the two themes to develop independently, nor to choose which topic to focus on, passing indistinctly and frantically between one and the other. An inability to choose and investigate that also negatively affects the visual and cinematographic sphere, with the proposal of events that are unrelated to each other, characters unable to fully present themselves from a character point of view – thus preventing them from establishing an emotional relationship with their own spectators – and a superficiality of shooting moments just hinted at in their comic range.
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The comedy gallery
The ideal family: a photo from the film
Meet mine; Almost friends; The father of the bride; It is complicated: there are many and numerous intertextual connections that arise during the viewing of the film directed by Arantxa Echevarría and link it by right to a previous cinematographic heritage made of cult that have entered by right due to their comic scope, and at the same time implicitly social, in collective memory. Yet, every cinematographic reference instead of reinforcing the ironic and sarcastic significance that should be at the basis of The Ideal Family, emphasizes its detachment from the world of comedy, underlining shortcomings and gaps (especially narrative) that invalidate the development of the work, disregarding expectations and underlining the predictability of a universe already written, already foreseen, already seen. The very simplicity of the characters born within a re-proposition of well-established stereotypes and easily recognizable by the public, does not therefore require an extensive presentation, making them a human gallery of two-dimensional human sketches. The talent of Belén Rued in the role of Lucìa is of little use, or the attempt to entrust to the chromatic play of pastel-colored dresses, and overalls in bright tones, the character and social contrast between the woman and her young daughter-in-law (played by a Carolina Yustee a little too marked in expressions and gestures). Everything really happens in an excessively rapid way, so much so as to leave the spectator disoriented and lost. The passage between the various sequences leaves no trace of breath, each event brings with it a trail of unspoken and assumptions, leaving the public the task of filling these gaps in a tiring way, especially in the field of comedy, where it is right in the game. of showing too much, and revealing little to one’s characters, that laughs in the audience, and misunderstandings on the screen.
It was fertile ground in itself, that of The Ideal Family. Cultivated with the seeds of social inequality and midlife marital crises, the Spanish one was a film ground from which to collect a work with a high rate of enjoyment and personal satisfaction. However, the director and her creative team forgot to water it at the right intervals, causing the final work to grow at times, full of unevenness, and in a not very harmonious way. And so the rice gave way to a bitter grimace, of a poorly grown unripe fruit.
We conclude this review of The Ideal Family, pointing out the concept that sometimes a good idea does not necessarily mean the realization of a great comedy. The speed of editing and the enthusiasm with which it is intended to follow the aspects of the family life of the protagonist Lucia make every comic structure of the opera collapse, reducing it to a bunch of wasted opportunities.
Because we like it
Belén Rueda’s performance The symbolic game entrusted to Lucia and Sara’s clothes The direction at the service of its protagonists
The superficiality with which the topics are treated The lack of success of the jokes and gags The continuous temporal elisions