Tuesday 26 February 2019


Meet the Laemle's. At first glance they're your typical 50s American family... Dad goes to work every day whilst Mom stays at home doing housework and preparing dinner for her 10 year old son, Michael. Except Michael isn't your average child, and he's starting to question why they have leftovers for dinner every night, and what were they before they were leftovers?

Pitched somewhere between Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure and David Lynch's Blue Velvet, Parents is a very weird film about a very weird family. Main character Michael (Bryan Madorsky) is not a chip off the old block, generally scared and concerned about who his parents really are behind the sheen of suburban harmony. Dad (Randy Quaid) may be all comfortable sweaters and horn-rimmed glasses on the surface, but his job at Toxico doing experiments on cadavers hides something sinister about the man inside the sweater; and Mom (Mary Beth Hurt) may look like she's straight off the cover of a family cookbook, but there's definitely some strange ingredients in her recipes.

Directed by character actor Bob Balaban, probably best known for his appearance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind or his more recent work with Wes Anderson (or maybe just as Phoebe's dad in Friends), it's always interesting to see what material drives actors to make their first film behind the camera. Although this was Balaban's first theatrical directorial effort back in 1989, he had previously (and has primarily since) worked in television, perhaps most pertinent to this film on the pilot episode of the television series Tales from the Darkside.

Featuring orchestral music by David Lynch regular Angelo Badalamenti, Parents has a dark and sombre tone not unlike Twin Peaks, but as a dark suburban fantasy it nails the weirdness whilst never quite managing to be scary or gripping enough to match the world created by Lynch and Frost, which to be fair, is probably asking too much of this film. Kind of like a junior school version of Society, it works best when the smiles of this perfect nuclear family start to crack and Mom and Dad start to reveal their dark secrets, although Michael is such a weird little boy it's up for debate as to how real what he thinks he sees is.

The sole acting credit for Bryan Madorsky, he's great at playing the kind of kid you'd be worried about your own offspring hanging out with, like a young Norman Bates in waiting. He never does anything more irrational than worry about his own safety, but still... you just sort of know he's a weird kid. But Madorsky is more than capable of holding his own against the likes of Randy Quaid - a man not afraid of putting in a big performance when asked to do so-, and he has some great scenes with Mary Beth Hurt's Mom, like a deadpan Wednesday Addams interacting with Laura Linney's super chipper housewife from The Truman Show.

Make no bones about it, Parents is an extremely odd, sometimes sinister and occasionally disgusting vision of the perfect 1950s suburban life, and although you many never find yourself corpsing with laughter, it's an eccentric and curious oddity that raises a few smiles in its downright weirdness.


Special Features-
- Commentary from director Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef
- Isolated score and interview with composer Jonathan Elias
- 'Mother's Day' - a new interview with Mary Beth Hurt
- 'Inside Out' - an interview with director of photography Robin Vidgeon
- 'Vintage Tastes' - with decorative consultant Yolanda Cuomo
- Theatrical trailer
- Radio spots
- Stills gallery

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