I recently watched the 2011 indie film The Perfect Family, about a devout Catholic woman (Kathleen Turner) who gets nominated for the Catholic Woman of the Year Award, and must set out to prove that she’s worthy of it to the priest and nuns of her congregation. The thing is that her family must provide recommendation letters of some sort. And the thing is that her family isn’t what she thinks the Church would approve of: (a possibly alcoholic) firefighter husband, a son who left his wife for another woman, and a lesbian daughter who marries her partner. Eileen, the woman, has to deal with the conflicts between her faith and her family, which are the cause for her crumbling marriage, and her crumbling relationships with both her children. She also has to put up with the holier-than-thou woman who is also nominated for the Award, as well as some horridly un-nun-ish nun. By that I mean totally judgmental and not what we are told Christians are supposed to be.
Normally I would find very little appeal in this type of movies, other than the Cast (Emily Deschanel is the afore-mentioned daughter, Shannon), because I tend to avoid church-themed movies. However, it was this or cheerleader movies, so this won out. I was surprised to find that I was oddly into this movie, because it got me thinking on how religion can’t be all there is to life, just like TV can’t be all there is, and work and school can’t be all that you care about, and they can’t dictate how you feel about stuff that they shouldn’t have a say in. To quote Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford: “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking”. If only Eileen had been able to keep an open mind, and formed her own opinions, perhaps then her husband wouldn’t have left her. Perhaps then Shannon wouldn’t have miscarried, because they wouldn’t have argued about the fact that she couldn’t accept her daughter’s “alternative lifestyle”.
I was also surprised at how much I liked the way the Church was depicted, which sounds awful if you don’t understand that it was done in a way that isn’t trashing the church, but rather pointing out the flaws that come about when people let their every opinion on stuff within their own lives be dictated by an old man that lives in a Palace in Rome, and his interpretation of a compilation of books which date hundreds (if not thousands) of years in the past.
The biggest thing I think anyone could take away from this film is that there really is no such thing as the perfect family… Shannon and her wife Angela, and any children they have, would be the perfect family, because they would love each other more than anything. And Eileen’s family was the Perfect Family, because they were human, and imperfect, and that made them inherently perfect.
Also, if you want to cry to the sight of Emily Deschanel crying, you should probably watch it. She is a really good crying-scene actress, because every time she cries, I cry too.