Family Plot Reviews
Despite a slow pace and a confused storyline, Family Plot offers decent performances, pretty funny humor, and a change of style for master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock (even if this was his last film he directed).
I disagree, I thought this film was great fun. My only complaint was at times Barbara Harris was way over the top and highly irritating but everyone else in the film made up for that especially Bruce Dern, he was a delight. Great Premise and the right amount of drama and humour. loved it!
I didn't go into Family Plot with the highest expectations as its legacy fails to live up to the standard of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces and the latest films in his career were proving to be of little quality. Plus, I was aware that the film was a bit more of a black comedy than a straight up thriller like many of his other pieces. That actually ended up being interesting to experience. The light nature of Family Plot made it a film which was possible to take seriously, but not one which was packed full of plot dynamics and different story angles. It still has its faults, but they are easy to keep up with in Family Plot because intense focus is not as much of a requirement this time around.
One of the issues is that there are quite a few characters to keep up with. While the central premise is fairly straightforward, the film is largely about two parallel narratives that run which reveal the two main perspectives of the event occurring, much like the structure put into Alfred Hitchcock's preceding film Frenzy. At the same time, the film flashes back to character Julia Rainbird's relevance to the tale among others. This settles down as bit as the story gets on and the focus ends up a lot more on better characters for longer periods of time without so many shifts, but it doesn't give the film a perfect startup. After a while however, things get settled and the film progresses nicely. The story unfolds at a sensible pace and things get intriguing. And although the story may not be the best that Alfred Hitchcock has told in his career and the pace of the film is slow as most films of the day were, it is still an entertaining piece of cinema.
Admittedly, Family Plot seems like a lesser piece from Alfred Hitchcock. It is an enjoyable piece, but it feels like a more conventional film without too much of a personal touch. He does line the film with atmosphere which is pivotal, but it lacks the same edge as many of his other works. But the effort of his directorial work is undeniable. It is interesting to see him taking on a different type of genre this time, with the mix between dark comedy and legitimate mystery thriller being an interesting hybrid. I found that Family Plot was one of Alfred Hitchcock's better pieces from the end of his career and his best since Marnie in 1964. He did give a great handling to the screenplay and was able to emphasize a lot of clever style in it by adding strong visual elements to it. Taking the low budget of Family Plot for a spin, Alfred Hitchcock gets a lot of nice scenery and production design to fuel Family Plot from the get go, and it works because the story is easily believable and contains some memorable imagery. Admittedly the German Expressionism moments in the film didn't add much due to the visual effects coming off as more cheap than artistic, but it is easy to overlook and even worth a bit of a laugh as an unintended comic virtue.
The musical score of the film is well composed. Crafted by legendary composer John Williams, Family Plot benefits from some strong music which maintains the spirit of many of his earlier works, more specifically the ones where he worked with Bernard Hermann. Yet at the same time it is also different. It is more subtle and lighter in nature which makes it tie into the general mood of the film really nicely while enhancing it .
And Family Plot is also a very well-acted piece.
Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris are terrific in Family Plot. In one of his earliest lead performances, Bruce Dern makes an easily likable protagonist, and Barbara Harris has a certain charming edge to her. The chemistry between the two actors is very relaxed and easy, and Bruce Dern is the more likable of the two partially because his character is a bit of an everyman. As the two of them are small time petty crooks, their transition into the underbelly of the real crime world is an interesting one because it depicts that they really fail to know anything about the life of a criminal, and the discoveries they make drive them further and further into a world they could not understand. The two of them are likable figures for the story, and both actors really work well together.
Karen Black is unpredictable in Family Plot. Despite being involved with criminal activities and siding with the enemy, Karen Black always has a certain edge of likable demeanour to her attributable to her natural charm, and the fact that there is always a sense of underlying reluctance in her. She also works really well alongside William Devane, so her performance in Family Plot pays a lot of credit to her as an actress.
William Devane is in fine form as well. He maintains a sophisticated dark edge in the role which has him walk an interesting line through the film. He has a Vincent Price-ish attire to him in the sense that he is dark and yet clever in a manipulative fashion. He has a sense of darkness and unpredictability to him, and yet he portrays the character in a really light manner. He encourages both the dark nature of the crime elements in the film and the light touch of comedy in the atmosphere which makes his performance on that matches the mood easily. William Devane is fine form as the central antagonist in Family Plot.
So although Family Plot is not one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest piece, it is a step up for him from three less than stellar preceding pieces due to his hard work in making it a quirky and atmospheric dark comedy / crime film which is fuelled by a strong film style and a strong cast.
Family Plot was Alfred Hitchcock's last movie. He died four years after it was released. While not anywhere near the dizzying heights of Hitchcock's best movies (Rear Window, Psycho, among others) it is reasonably good.
Interesting main plot with some good twists along the way. Some inconsistencies though, especially in some of the sub-plots. Not everything entirely makes sense. Also, giving away the secret so soon in the movie removed a lot of the potential mystery in the movie.
As always with a Hitchcock movie, what sustains the movie is the suspense. Hitchcock keeps you hooked the whole way through.
Also has some good humorous moments.
Good performance by Bruce Dern as George. Barbara Harris was a touch unconvincing and irritating as Blanche. William Devane is okay, and suitably devious, as the criminal, though his 70s moustache was a bit too creepy.
RIP Alfred Hitchcock.