A Family Thing (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Family Thing (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

A middle-aged Southerner's world turns upside down after his mother's death when he learns that his real mother was the family's black maid and that he has a half-brother. After he finds his long-lost brother, most of the drama revolves around the difficult relationship between the two brothers.
PG-13 (adult situations/language, violence)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
MGM Home Entertainment


Robert Duvall
as Earl Pilcher Jr.
James Earl Jones
as Ray Murdoch
Michael Beach
as Virgil Murdoch
Irma P. Hall
as Aunt T.
Mary Jackson
as Carrie
David Keith
as Sonny
James N. Harrell
as Earl Sr.
Ashleigh Jordan
as Danielle
Saundra Quarterman
as Young Aunt T.
Don James
as Junior Turner
Jim Sanderson
as Dr. Parks
Karla Harscheid
as Young Carrie Pilcher
Marquis Ramone Colquitt
as Little Raymond
David Spenser
as The Nightclub Band
Nathan Lee Lewis
as Brother Conners
Katherine Mitchell
as Woman in Apartment
Xander Berkeley
as Sunburned Man
Willo Hausman
as Waitress
Richard Lexsee
as Truckjacker
Ramsey Harris
as Truckjacker
J. Antonio Moon
as Truckjacker
Meg Thalken
as Doctor
Jeri Boyle
as Old Lady
Tommy Bush
as Old Man
Jacqueline Williams
as Woman at Hospital
Wanda Christine
as Woman at City Hall
Roy Hytower
as Man at Gas Station
John Mikels
as Policemen
Asa Harris
as Woman Birthday Friend
Bernard Mixon
as Birthday Husband
Paulette McDaniels
as Birthday Girl
Antoine Roshell
as Young Man in Car
Greg Hollimon
as Man No. 2
Reggie Hayes
as Virgil's Friend
Andrew Love
as Nightclub Band Member
Garry Goin
as Nightclub Band Member
Paul D. Wilson
as Nightclub Band Member
Ernie S. Adams
as Nightclub Band Member
Tony Brown
as Nightclub Band Member
Theotis Rogers
as Nightclub Band Member
David Spencer
as Nightclub Band Member
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Critic Reviews for A Family Thing

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (6)

It's likely to be overrated by some and underrated by others, and both contingents will be wrong. One can't, however, overrate the performances, with auntie ruling the roost in more ways than one.

January 1, 2000
USA Today
Top Critic

Underrated family drama; Duvall and Jones are terrific

August 17, 2006
Atlantic City Weekly

A just-OK teaming of two major talents

August 4, 2003
Kalamazoo Gazette

Uplifting film that celebrates the ties that link people together despite vast differences.

Full Review… | August 27, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Restrained, thoughtful, and ultimately very successful.

January 1, 2000
Apollo Guide

A poignant and beautifully life affirming film.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Internet Reviews

Audience Reviews for A Family Thing

Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, and irma P. Hall were pretty amazing in this. Really good little movie.

Matt Heiser
Matt Heiser

Tired of testosterone driven shoot-em-ups and brain dead comedies? A Family Thing may be just what you need. Laid back, thought provoking and full of life, this ageless story manages just the right blend of honesty and sentimentality. What's the biggest shock that an aging good ol' white boy from the deep South could expect after sixty-some years of life? How about finding out that not only is his momma not his momma, but that his real mother was black? That is the mid-life crisis that Earl Pilcher (Robert Duvall) finds himself in when his just-passed momma leaves him a revealing letter. Seems that pappa took advantage of a servant girl in his youth, who died giving birth to a fair-skinned male child. Sympathetic momma raised the boy as her own. Momma's last request is that Earl find his half-brother Raymond Lee (James Earl Jones) and get acquainted with his kin. It's a task that Earl stubbornly resists at first. He has years of social conditioning to overcome, and no idea what he could possible have to say to these folks. But something inside him longs for answers and understanding. Soon, he is off to Chicago to put the questions to bed. Older brother Raymond's greeting is less than enthusiastic. He's lived many years trying to forget the circumstances that left him without a mother or a father. Each man says his piece and the two go their own ways. But fate has other plans for Earl, who finds himself stranded in the big city. Raymond is reluctant to offer help and Earl is too self-conscious to accept, but with the help of a cantankerous old aunt, these men will work past their pride and their prejudices to unearth the meaning of family. With a different emphasis, the story could easily be one of those brainless comedies that you're trying to escape. Fortunately, everyone involved in this production had a different agenda in mind. Writers Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson know their subject and their characters. Director Richard Pearce lets the story tell itself without pretentious aspirations. And it's safe to say that the leads are two of the most talented actors working today. Duvall brings his "everyman" quality to the role of Earl; delivering with a physical and emotional honesty that invokes both contempt and sympathy. James Earl Jones mixes a lightness and a humor with his imposing presence to create a character whose physical capabilities are held in check by discipline and intelligence. Their mutual journey of discovery is not all rosey; nor is it automatic. Instead, the resolution is believable and open to continued growth. Most important, their story offers a sense of hope; a measure of commonality that we often overlook in our efforts to define who we are. A Family Thing is rated PG-13 for some strong language and its racially charged theme. It's not the answer to all our problems, but it is a balanced, step in the right direction.

Troy Cullison
Troy Cullison

I think that the racial tensions in this move weren't accurately portrayed... I felt like Robert duval's character got away with a lot of stuff that I doubt he would have.

leah beck
leah beck

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