Much like his character’s second book in the film, Jason Bateman’s (Zootopia) second feature film is a “bit more complex and divisive” than his first round behind the camera with the more main-streamish Bad Words. Fang is a view of a unique family that is more like Running with Scissors than The Way Way Back. Throw in a little Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, and you have some sense of what you may be in for. Or maybe you don’t. Bateman keeps growing as a director. He needs to be a bit more brutal in the editing room to sharpen his storytelling, but his control of the actors to get what he wants is really quite good.
What he delivers is a dark look at parenting and adulthood. Bateman and Nicole Kidman (Stoker) play damaged siblings who have learned a lot in their lives, but with some significant gaps in how to negotiate society. Bateman, as character, feels very familiar. It isn’t so much that he plays the same character all the time as he plays all of his characters with the same cadences and traits. It works well and he always feels approachable, vulnerable, and familiar, but either you like it or you don’t. Kidman’s performance is a bit less expected, and she takes her Annie through some mine fields during the near 2 hour run.
Christopher Walken (A Late Quartet) and Maryann Plunkett (True Story) play their present day parents, while Kathryn Hahn (Tomorrowland) and Jason Butler Harner (Alcatraz) play the earlier incarnations. The parents are onions that are slowly peeled back to reveal their cores. What drives them and their emotional needs and fulfillment is part of the story that the children need to unravel, even as they are unraveling the mystery before them. In this case, Walken is playing the character he always plays, but which audiences somehow never tire of watching. Plunkett gets to do a bit more with her role as the character is more complex and provides some wonderfully subtle moments.
This is a dark film with a bit of a sunny center. While extreme, the journey of the children is one everyone must travel, even if the roadside attractions aren’t quite as twisted for most. There are some gaffs in the story; procedural things that drove me nuts but didn’t ruin it. Most folks won’t care and, even if you recognize the issues, you can squint a bit and just focus on the tale.