SXSW Film Review: You Can Choose Your Family

Jim Gaffigan nails the lovable and despicable dad role

Portraying a believable, at times endearing – but adulterous – dad antihero can’t be easy. So, for her feature-length, narrative directorial debut, Miranda Bailey did the only reasonable thing: She cast beloved dad and comic, Jim Gaffigan.

In Bailey’s You Can Choose Your Family Gaffigan plays Frank, a seemingly square dad who has grown apart from his underappreciated wife Laura (Anna Gunn) and teenage son Philip (Logan Miller). When Philip accidentally learns that his father has a secret, second family, he decides to blackmail him. But as Philip starts to see a different side of his dad through a brief stay with his half-siblings and his father’s other wife, Bonnie (Samantha Mathis), the plan falls apart and the two start reconnecting.

Over the course of the film, Frank betrays everyone he professes to love, which includes two wives and four children. He’s horrible. It should be easy to hate him, but Gaffigan and Miller’s onscreen chemistry and writer Glen Lakin’s hilarious dialogue complicate it all a bit. Frank’s still a sleaze, but there are at times the tiniest glimmers of the lovable, self-deprecating dad of Gaffigan’s stand-up. During the Q&A following the film, Bailey mentioned she didn’t want the mothers’ roles to seem “thankless.” Her success there kept the film light and fun. It also did much to minimize any sliminess. Of course, that it’s a Nineties period piece – complete with the limited communication of corded phones, a wood-paneled lake house, a song by Color Me Badd, and a stoner uncle – helps too.

You Can Choose Your Family

Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere
Tuesday, March 13, 7pm, Alamo Lamar A
Wednesday, March 14, 6pm, Satellite Venue: AFS Cinema

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