Everyone loves a good family drama, or dramedy, or dark comedy — or whatever your personal genre-demarcation preference may be — and they’re usually awards-show catnip. Whether it’s a more whimsically dysfunctional family like the Hoovers in Little Miss Sunshine or a decidedly sardonic group like the Burnhams in American Beauty, your nuclear unit probably seems normal in comparison. Check out seven of the more unhinged family-centric Screen Actors Guild Awards darlings.
American Beauty, 1999
Well, dad’s midlife crisis entails smoking pot, lusting after his daughter’s teenage friend, and quitting his job to a buy a sweet hot rod and work at a fast-food place. Mom’s having an affair, said daughter is dating the local pot dealer and art-school-weirdo blueprint, and … well, none of it really turns out so great for anybody. But it’s one of the most decorated and beloved films of the 1990s for a reason. Still, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) maybe should’ve invested in a family therapist instead of that Firebird.
The Fighter, 2010
Know that The Fighter was inspired by a documentary featuring the Eklund-Ward family called High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, and brace yourself accordingly. Son Micky Ward is a boxer managed by his mother Alice and trained by his half-brother (and crack addict) Dicky. Over the course of the film, every member of the family — pretty much except Micky — instigates some kind of fight over him, or has an argument about their own involvement in his career, and that doesn’t even include the actual fist fight between Micky’s girlfriend Charlene, three of his sisters, and his mom. So many Massachusetts accents!
Though Birdman is ostensibly about former superhero actor Riggan Thomson’s struggles to distance himself from his past and mount an “artistic” career on the stage, Thomson’s relationships with his recovering drug-addict daughter and ex-wife Sylvia are central to the plot. Thomson’s daughter at varying points berates his play as a vanity project and maybe plants the idea for his (SPOILER ALERT) last-act botched suicide attempt by explaining the concept of viral notoriety to him. Meanwhile, Sylvia’s presence is the catalyst for Thomson’s confession that he’d previously attempted suicide years earlier after she caught him having an affair. Also, one of Thomson’s costars is his younger girlfriend, whose maybe-pregnancy elicits more panic than joy in him. Ah, the theater.
August: Osage County, 2013
Explaining the web of secrets that propel the plot of this Pulitzer Prize-winning black comedy in the space allotted would require some kind of interactive graph, but the short list of things that afflict the Weston family throughout the run time (SPOILERS) includes cancer, drug addiction, molestation, incest, suicide, infidelity, divorce and an extremely sharp-tongued matriarch. The inciting incident is a family funeral, as if things weren’t enough of a tinderbox to start with.
The Birdcage, 1996
It’s the most lighthearted film on this list, but it still makes a major plot point out of a conservative senator’s colleague being found dead in the bed of an underage African-American prostitute. However, it’s all fun and games from there, focusing on the subsequent deception of said senator by his daughter’s fiancée’s gay parents, which culminates in a drag show. Got all that?
Little Miss Sunshine, 2006
Mom and dad are actually relatively well adjusted in this particular family. Grandpa, on the other hand, was kicked out of his retirement home after being discovered snorting heroin; the elder son has taken a vow of silence and idolizes Nietzsche, the uncle recently attempted suicide; and the daughter’s competing routine at a child beauty pageant is a burlesque dance performed to Rick James’ “Super Freak.” The family also smuggles a corpse out of a hospital at one point. And their VW van’s horn will not stop honking.
Captain Fantastic, 2016
This year’s SAG-nominated dysfunctional family could probably just be considered extremely crunchy, though an alternate description might be “isolationist survivalist shut-ins.” (Or “shut-outs,” since they live outdoors?) But given that the trailer includes Grandpa firing an arrow at Dad from a compound bow and threatening to take the kids away, it’s safe to say that the biggest drama in the film isn’t one of terminology. Also, suicide is a key plot point. This family tree is pretty bleak.
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