For Reel


Cinema Verite (2011)
June 14, 2011, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini

The Loud family of Santa Barbara were the first stars of reality television and, therefore, among the first families that television destroyed. In capturing the filming of “An American Family”, directors Berman and Pulcini contribute well-realized period detail to the production, if not taking full advantage of the potential of this fascinating historical landmark. The biggest fault in the telling is the misuse of James Gandolfini as the director of the reality series. Though Pat and Bill Loud are torn apart by the director’s need to enliven the material with new dramatic stakes and conflicts, Berman and Pulcini never examine Gandolfini in the cutting room or receiving pressure from his producers. His methods never seem motivated and the film, therefore, misses the opportunity to comment on the ways in which reality is manipulated by the media in an effort to reap profits from sensationalism. The performances, on the other hand, are uniformly effective – with Diane Lane and Tim Robbins both bringing layers to characters who may have read one-dimensional on the page. Robbins, especially, plays a role at risk of becoming the straight-laced, arrogant patriarch, however he successfully brings enough humanity to the role that, when the couple separates in the final act, he becomes a surprisingly tragic figure.

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