Family debuted at SXSW last week and it's a funny, honest, and refreshing film centered around strong leading ladies. It serves as a reminder that women can own a film too and it doesn't have to be one of those boring romcoms. We sat down with some of the cast along with writer/director Laura Steinel to discuss the film.
Kate (played by Taylor Schilling) is a businesswoman in New York married to her career. When her brother (played by Eric Edelstein) begs her to watch her niece, Maddie (played by Bryn Vale) because his wife (played by Allison Tolman)'s mother is ill – she drags her feet but eventually agrees. Though, while under Kate's supervision, Maddie befriends a bunch of Juggalos and Kate has to struggle with kind of saving her from those “wrong side of the tracks” type people. The film eventually becomes a dual coming of age story for both 12 year old Maddie and 30 year old Kate.
Kate doesn't like kids or just any other people in general for that matter. She is cold and too brash for anyone to like her, primarily because all she cares about is herself and her career. Yet, she is still the hero of this film, you're a fan of her and you root for her the entire time. It's refreshing to see that, to be blunt, women can play assholes too. Steinel write the script because, to put it simply, there aren't enough good parts for women.
“They're always either the girlfriend or the wife,” Steinel explained, “So I wanted to write something for someone who was kind of terrible but in a funny way. Men can always be funny terrible and get away with it so that's what I wanted.” Tolman, who plays Kate's sister-in-law, agrees, “They certainly don't make films where the asshole is the hero whereas in our lives, some of us are assholes sometimes,” she explained at the film's post Q&A.
But it isn't just about the hero being essentially the anti-hero at the same time. Each character has a refreshing new take on the role. Even the brother, played by Edelstein, is not your typical movie husband. “You don't see guys written like this, this guy is great with his wife making the calls,” Edelstein explained, “This guy is puddy in her hands – 'whatever you want babe I'm here to support you' – and it's so much funnier that way.”
Truly, the most honest character is 12 year old Maddie, played by Bryn Vale. “Maddie is definitely a challenging character but I think it was easier for me because I could relate,” explained Vale. She doesn't have really many friends because she is different and unique. Her mother wants her to do ballet but she wants to do karate. She wants to wear capes and play with swords she made because she's creative – and that doesn't fit in with the boring, typical 12 year olds at her school. So, of course, she wants to be friends with the one kid that is nice to her – Baby Joker – who is, in fact, a juggalo.
Juggalos are fans of the band Insane Clown Posse, they wear clown makeup on their face and sing about pretty nasty stuff. “The whole Juggalo thing just felt like the most realest, craziest, darkest play you can go to find yourself in a way,” explained Steinel. Juggalos wear face paint, similar to masks, and in a way the whole film is about taking off your mask and finding your true self, so the idea of meeting juggalos seemed to fit.
Overall, there truly aren't many coming of age tales focused on girls and women and this is the perfect film for it. It's funny, honest, and real. Each character has a moment to shine. Sometimes a strong female driven movie doesn't have to be dramatic or romatic – it just has to be honest and relatable that is exactly what this film is.