Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2015. Aggregate Films, Red Crown Productions, Blossom Films, ML Film Productions, Olympus Pictures, Papagjika Salloway Productions, QED International. Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the novel by Kevin Wilson. Cinematography by Ken Seng. Produced by Jason Bateman, James Garavente, Nicole Kidman, Riva Marker, Per Saari, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by Beth Mickle. Costume Design by Amy Westcott. Film Editing by Robert Frazen. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
Jason Bateman directs and stars in this promising but ultimately ineffective adaptation of the novel by Kevin Wilson. He and Nicole Kidman plays siblings who have entered a complicated adulthood after being raised by their performance artist parents (played in the past by Jason Butler Harner and Kathryn Hahn, in the present by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) whose craft centered around disruptive pranks in public settings, the kind of thing that could only have earned them grant money in the seventies. Kidman is now a low-grade movie star and Bateman a novelist with writer’s block who is taking money for magazine articles on subjects he’s not proud of, including one about potato guns that gets him sent to the hospital with an injury to his ear. The brother and sister are informed that their parents have gone missing, their car found abandoned with traces of blood on the dashboard, and they both assume it’s another performance piece, resisting the alarm that the authorities raise for what they believe is an abduction or possibly worse. Trying to figure out where their folks have gone leads to painful memories of an unconventional childhood, one whose harsh coming-of-age experiences force these two to contemplate whether or not they really had it all that bad or if they’re just not looking at it the right way. Rather than really explore this, though, the film caps its narrative with a conclusion that defies even the characters’ worst expectations but leaves the audience feeling slightly rushed out the door. The end result is a respectable effort on everyone’s part, though the uneven screenplay makes Bateman and Kidman feel like guests in a production that never establishes its central figures.