Good-natured but only memorable as a platform for the amusingly feisty Peter Falk, “The Thing About My Folks” plies a light approach to the problems grown children face when their parents appear on the verge of divorce. A project that’s been close to actor-writer Paul Reiser for more than a decade, pic plays at the level of solid cable productions, even with a game cast. And, outside of some domestic fest appearances, cable is where this comedy-drama is headed.
Popping by unannounced one night at the home of son Ben (Reiser) and wife Rachel (Elizabeth Perkins), Sam (Falk) drops a bomb in the form of a scribbled goodbye note from Muriel (Olympia Dukakis), his wife of many years. Ben and his worry-wart sisters leap into action, trying to track Muriel down, while Ben tries to distract Sam by inviting him on a road trip to look a farm for sale in upstate New York.
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Reiser and Falk work in tandem with fine ease — perhaps too much ease for all the buried pain and feelings that surface during their quality time together away from the city. Sam is immediately likable when filtered through Falk’s patented manner of crusty puzzlement and amusing anger and irreverence, but underneath is a father figure who was so intent on running his business that he neglected his wife and kids. As in countless American plays and movies about families, resentments are aired and father-son psyches are bared, in between the laughs.
Pic belongs more to Reiser than to director Raymond De Felitta, who allows the extremely talky script to go on uncut and covers the chatter with an excess of TV-style tracking close-ups.
Dukakis appears only near the end, for fairly melodramatic effect. While it’s pleasant to see Falk and Reiser with a ton of screen time, the talented Perkins is sadly kept on the story’s margins. Vid lensing looks good, but vid projection at Palm Springs fest was sub-par.