‘All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ So wrote Tolstoy, who never had to endure possibly cinema’s dullest dysfunctional family. Not even a powerhouse cast can rescue this talky parable about how far parents will go to protect their kids.
Steve Coogan is Paul Lohman, a misanthropic ex-teacher married to Claire (Laura Linney). They’re booked in at a fancy restaurant with Paul’s brother Stan (Richard Gere), a politician running for governor. Rebecca Hall is Katelyn, Stan’s much younger wife. As the champagne flows, it emerges that the four are meeting to discuss something Really Bad that has happened involving their teenage sons and a vulnerable homeless woman at a cash machine.
The performances are thoughtful, and like a pinch of chilli, heat things up from time to time. But director Oren Moverman’s portrait of smug, toxic privilege misses its mark – and at the end of two long hours, this feels about as fresh as last night’s chips.