Friday, December 18, 2009

another angel movie for the holidays

So here it is. My heart on my sleeve. A movie I have watched over and over and am embarrassed to confess to. What makes The Family Man, a descendant of It's a Wonderful Life, so good in my opinion?

Firstly, I am a sucker for the
what if
scenario. Especially, the what if you had another chance to do your life over. You know, the Robert Frost road not taken. It's something I've wasted a lot of time on myself. I can dream can't I?

Then, there's the angel thing. In this case, played solidly by award-winning actor Don Cheadle. It's a small part, but as the saying goes, there are no small parts and Cheadle proves that. (As does Mary Beth Hurt as the secretary who totally steals every scene she's in with her snappy delivery and timing.) Cheadle plays a very interesting interpretation of the angel archetype.

Of course, we have the likeable Nicolas Cage as Jack and Tea Leoni as Kate in the leads, and Jeremy Pivan as the sidekick. All are wonderful in their roles. If you happen to be a Cage fan, the early scene with him getting dressed and singing opera is a must see. And child actress Makenzie Vega is almost too adorable.

It is a moralistic film, certainly. The message being, love and family win out over power and money, and these are mutually exclusive. Well maybe that isn't true in the real world. Maybe it is equally likely rich folks have will have rich family lives as it is middle class folks will. I wouldn't know. But I totally buy into the gooshy idea that love is worth whatever sacrifice it takes to obtain it and keep it. If you think I am a corny sentimental fool you are right. I wasn't always this way as my college friends can tell you. But life experience, to the contrary mind you, has made a romantic out of me.

I like the ending of this film. Without giving too much away, I'll tell you it isn't happy exactly, but it leaves the door open to the possibility of happiness and that as a viewer makes me happy.

One final note. I have to say, if Kate hadn't worn such an ugly coat to the airport in the very beginning, she might have won her plea, and the whole film would be unnecessary. But that coat was very easy to walk away from.


  1. Nicholas Cage is very good at this type of character. I think his role in "the Weatherman" seems like an alternate reality cousin to his character here. SOmething about him lends itself well to the "road not taken" examinations.

  2. Cage does have an "everyman" quality that seems suitable for these roles. I like the idea of "an alternate reality cousin." His character in The Weatherman was a kind of nebbish who eventually gets his act together without the assistance of angels. We should all be so fortunate.

  3. No life is perfect. Liked 'The Family Man' because here he is thrown into a life he's not expecting, with kids, and a bad job---and he realizes a part of him is happy.

    And in his other life, he has money, a great job---and part of him is happy.

    But neither life is perfect.

    I think that's why the ending worked. Because they get a chance to put both lives together and find one somewhere in the middle.