Immediate Family

(Jonathan Kaplan, USA, 1989)


Jonathan Kaplan’s strange and compelling Immediate Family is an example of the thirtysomething-inspired yuppie-relationship films of the ’80s – a prematurely derided genre if there ever was one.

This more-bitter-than-sweet tale of James Woods and Glenn Close as adoptive parents deserves a long essay. Scene after scene, it’s an ambiguous piece: a scene where the characters dance and supposedly relax together while listening to ’70s classic rock (Van Morrison) is hard to take straight.

I take the film as the modern equivalent of the sort of assignment that Douglas Sirk would have accepted and slyly made his own. Faced with the obsequious middle class ideology of the script, Kaplan insinuates into his dramatisation a subversive, pained, grimly ironic sense of the unbreachable inequities of the social system.

His direction manages to focus our attention on those conditions that fix working class characters Mary Stuart Masterson and Kevin Dillon into their impossible, losing position.

Constructed with subtlety and finesse, Immediate Family a film to argue over.

MORE Kaplan: Brokedown Palace, Heart Like a Wheel, Love Field, Unlawful Entry, White Line Fever, Fallen Angels, Project X

© Adrian Martin November 1991

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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