By Don Simpson | May 3, 2012
Director: Anne Renton
Writers: Paula Goldberg, Claire V. Riley
Starring: Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Kathleen Turner, Richard Chamberlain, Elizabeth Peña, Michael McGrady, Sharon Lawrence, Kristen Dalton, Scott Michael Campbell, Angelique Cabral
With The Perfect Family, director Anne Renton poses the age old question: aren’t Catholics silly? They have a holier than thou attitude because they go to church so frequently and do penance just as often. They strive for sainthood and obey every word of their supreme leader, the Pope. They also believe that their god is the cause of everything that happens to them (no matter if its good or bad) because its all part of their god’s plan; in turn, they tend to say a lot of prayers for everything and everyone.
Eileen (Kathleen Turner) is one such dedicated Catholic; in fact, she is so devout that she has been nominated as a contender for Catholic Woman of the Year. Presumably this is a regional award, since Eileen’s only competition is her archnemesis, Agnes (Sharon Lawrence). This award would be a great honor for a woman of Eileen’s convictions, but she really needs the prayer of absolution that comes along with the prize. (What egregious sin could she have committed that requires something as powerful as the prayer of absolution to absolve her of? Just you wait and see…)
Eileen continues with her daily regimen of attending mass, confessing sins, visiting shut-ins, delivering meals on wheels, and praying, lots and lots of praying; but this is not enough to secure the award. The winner of the Catholic Woman of the Year must also have a good Catholic family; and, to paraphrase Eileen, there is nothing wrong with her, she just needs for her family to behave like Catholics.
Eileen’s husband (Michael McGrady) is a recovering alcoholic; and despite him being sober, Eileen is still embarrassed of his history. Eileen’s daughter, Shannon (Emily Deschanel), is engaged — to a woman (Angelique Cabral); oh, and Shannon is also five months pregnant. (We all know how the Pope feels about the LGBTQ community, especially when it comes to raising children.) To make matters worse, Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter) — Eileen’s son — has just announced that he is leaving his wife and kids for an older, non-Catholic, hussy (Kristen Dalton). Eileen not only needs personal references (letters of recommendation) from this dysfunctional family of her’s, but the Diocese must conduct a home visit and meet her family face-to-face. But, as Eileen would say, everything happens for a reason. God only knows what that reason is…
Admittedly, I am not a fan of organized religion. Though I was born and raised Catholic (and attended Catholic school for eight years), I separated myself from the church many, many years ago. I am very critical of Catholicism, but no more critical than I am of any other organized religion. So, obviously, I do not necessarily disagree with critique offered to us by The Perfect Family, though I do think a lot of the humor is irreverently insensitive. As I see it, it does not do much good to make fun of others in an effort to persuade them to see the error of their ways. Sure, The Perfect Family has some very humorous moments, but they are probably only humorous for us non-Catholics in the audience.