Monday, September 21, 2009

305) Family Viewing (1987)

305) Family Viewing (1987) Dir: Atom Egoyan Date Released: July 1988 Date Seen: September 21, 2009 Rating: 1.75/5

The submerged undertones of menace that made Atom Egoyan's Next of Kin so unsettling are thawed out in his third feature, Family Viewing and boy, do they reek. Egoyan's sentimental, self-righteous portrayal of Van (Aidan Tierney), a pampered recent college graduate's Oedipal struggle to wrest control of his ailing, bed-ridden grandmother Armen (Selma Keklikian) from his uncaring monster of a father, Stan (character actor David Hemblen*), is frankly dumb. Though Egoyan's fixation with fictitious video memories and fantasies is sometimes still effectively creepy, Family Viewing is a loaded scenario full of obnoxious and ill-conceived arguments in its protagonist's favor. 

The case against Stan is appallingly simple. Van disdains his father because Stan's never visited Armen in the hospital because he not only put her there but also, as Egoyan overtly suggests early on, ruined her health by never visiting. Stan's also a pervert with a domination fetish, showing how his sexual perversion dominates his life--"He likes to be in control," Van sneers. Which is funny, because I'm pretty sure what Van's doing isn't any less possessive, just necessarily more unimpeachable in its conviction. 

Van stays with Armen without fail, putting his personal and professional life after her needs and constantly searching for any opportunity to make her more comfortable. Then again, he also, in order to keep her away from Stan, fakes Armen's death, takes her out of the hospital and then concocts an elaborate scheme that eventually wrests on her surviving the trauma of being re-institutionalized as an unidentified hobo at a facility whose location would be determined by, y'know, medical professionals. Even if I hadn't seen Next of Kin, I'm positive that that kind of rigged fight for custody of the living past just wouldn't cut it with me.

*Hemblen was the voice of Magneto in the X-Men cartoon from the 90s. Never forget that voice!

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