"What's a 'vag'?" -- Eulogy
The Eulogy: a speech attempting to find the good things about a person after death, no matter how few or far between they may be, and to gloss over the bad, no matter how heinous or wretched. Well, I don't know where that was going, so I'll just say that Eulogy is a pretty good movie and you should go watch it.
Eulogy starts just after the death of Edmund Collins, the grandfather of Katie Collins, our protagonist. Along with Barbara Collins, his wife, Edmund managed to raise four extremely screwed up children: Daniel (Katie's father) starred in a peanut butter commercial when he was 8, choked during an audition for a toothpaste commercial a short while thereafter, and spend the rest of his life regretting it while working in obscure porn films; Alice is extremely angry, critical, and loud, to name a few, and has verbally beaten her husband and three children into continual silence; Skip fakes being a lawyer for a living and his extreme crassness has rubbed off onto his twin ~12 year old boys; and finally, Lucy, who's only problems seem to be complete ambivalence for her father's death, a trait she shares with her siblings, and extreme resentment to adn anger at Alice (for justifiable reasons that quickly become obvious). Forced back to the family home for the funeral, hilarity ensues as this terribly dysfunctional family somehow manages to resolve a few of its ongoing problems in time to "bury" their father. Fortunately, Katie, the one seemingly normal person here, tells us the story from her point of view.
This movie purports to be a dark comedy, and although it is undoubtedly very very funny in a dark sort of way, I feel it actually works best as a drama and character study. The humor tends to arrive in spurts, hitting with good regularity but hardly saturating the picture, whereas the drama unfolds for the full 90 minutes, even (perhaps especially) during the laughs. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
This flick certainly stimulates the funny glands, catalyzing laughter throughout. It's fun just to watch these disturbed individuals walk around and interact with each other, but combine that with their twisted reactions to these extraordinary situations and you can reliably get enough laughter to cure some mild anthrax, or at least a case of the snuffles. Sometimes, dark comedy can provoke a polarized reaction wherein half the audience is appalled and the other half is floored, but my patented Funny Analyzer here tells me that the dark comedy in Eulogy has just enough of the absurd in it to minimize the percentage of viewers who'll storm out in disgust and maximize the number who giggle into incoherence.
But it is as a drama that Eulogy truly glistens. The family's situation is an extremely odd one, and perhaps the most fun to be found here is internally plotting how its oddities caused each individual unit of dysfunction. In fact, I've found that the second viewing is even better than the first because despite losing the twist you now know exactly what to look for along the way, and it all fits just perfectly. Skip's crudity, Alice's bitchiness (especially Alice's bitchiness), everyone's ambivalence, and even Daniel's self-centeredness to some degree: all is explained without anyone really explaining it. The resolution also fortunatelly works well; at no point would any but the most cynical of filmgoers call the sequence of events unlikely or improbable.
The acting is good, for the most part. I wouldn't call it stellar, but there aren't really any sour points either. I don't think that this is due to any deficit on the part of the actors; it's just that the movie didn't call for many really hard tests of an actor's skill and thus they didn't have many chances to shine. Debra Winger's Alice is particularly well done throughout, however, and Kelly Preston also had an above-average turn as Lucy. Anyway, all the characters were believable, and that's all that really matters when all is spoken and finished.
Action: 3/5 flying grandmas (Surprisingly, there was some action in this movie, and it was mostly pretty well done, although I thought the scene where grandma flew was a bit fake).
Acting: 3.25/5 lobster bibs (Mostly pedestrian, the acting had a few crests and almost no troughs).
Comedy: 4/5 falling next-door neighbors (This picture evokes its fair share of laughs).
Story: 4/5 joints (Engrossing and interesting, the plot did everything a good plot should and then some).
Visuals: 3/5 minivans (They weren't anything special).
Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 4.25/5 video tapes (I really like this movie, and it ranks high on my list of recommendations. I especially recommend watching it again, to help hunt for the clues along the way. If I have one major grievance it's with the movie's length; I feel that Eulogy would have been better if lengthened to 105 or 120 minutes. Other than that, two-point-one-two-five thumbs up).