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May 4. 2012

Evenings Out

Kathleen Turner is a perfect mom again, in this marvelous comedy

In one of her greatest film roles, Kathleen Turner played the perfect suburban housewife. Her family was happy and loved. Her home was immaculate. She was civic-minded and caring.

She was also a serial killer.

Yes, we’re talking about Serial Mom, one of John Waters’ most accessible films, the one it’s safe to let your mother watch. Only two of her other films might even compare in terms of sheer greatness: The War of the Roses, which turned Romancing the Stone on its ear, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in which she was literally animated.

Of course, neither of those films were helmed by John Waters, so they are what they are.

Despite now being a woman of “a certain age,” Turner is a busy little bee. She keeps getting acting jobs, and for that, we should all be thankful. Where would we be without that husky voice, those ample curves, those eyes that can stare directly into the depths of your soul?

Now, backed by a stellar cast including Sharon Lawrence, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter and Richard Freakin’ Chamberlain (which should be his official stage name whenever he’s in a cool production), she is back as another perfect mother in Anne Renton’s The Perfect Family, a selection at both OutFest and the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011.

Turner plays Eileen Cleary, a middle-aged married woman, very involved in the church, and up for Catholic Woman of the Year. The only thing standing in the way is her arch-nemesis Agnes Dunn (Sharon Lawrence).

“Every time something good is about to happen to me, Agnes Dunn pops up,” she laments.

Another stumbling block might be Eileen’s family.

Her marriage to alcoholic Frank is coming apart at the seams. Her son, Frank Jr., is having an affair with a manicurist.

“She’s older than you are. You can’t even get a midlife crisis right!” she tells him.

And the cherry on the sundae of Sunday School rule violations is her daughter Shannon, who announces she is going to get married to a nice Catholic--named Angela.

Her parish priest Father Joe (Scott Michael Campbell) is a kind soul, and Monsignor Murphy (Richard Chamberlain) is supportive of her bid for Catholic Woman of the Year, but they are both Catholic clergy. As Eileen posits, she’s Catholic, she doesn’t have to think about whether or not she approves of her daughter’s impending marriage.

As the story reaches its climax, Eileen is faced with the ultimate question: Is her messed-up, dysfunctional family more important than her church and the opportunity to win Catholic Woman of the Year? Is it possible to have both, or will she take neither?

Of course, Renton could totally shatter the narrative thread of the film and have Eileen suddenly snap and reveal that she has dissociative personality disorder, and her alternate personality is Beverly Sutphin. She then goes on a killing spree, painting a mural on the wall of the church in Agnes Dunn’s blood.

Okay, probably not. But The Perfect Family, which opens May 11 at the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights, is a marvelous comedy with a brilliant cast that Pope Benedict XVI will most likely not go to see.




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