The death of a has-been Hollywood producer ushers in a family gathering that goes maniacally off the rails in Christopher Jaymes’ raucous if facile “In Memory of My Father.” Re-exploring for the umpteenth time a dysfunctional clan whose members are facing key life crises, pic eludes the trap of excessive familiarity with an acidic sense of humor and a superbly cast ensemble (most play characters with their actual first names), led by Jaymes and a knockout Jeremy Sisto. With Cinevegas’ grand jury prize under its belt, group comedy will sort through fest invites and distrib offers for solid North American exposure.
Black comic tone is bluntly established with the sight of Chris (Jaymes), youngest of three sons, and hyper pal Pat (Pat Healy) videotaping the last moments of Dad’s life in his Hollywood mansion bedroom (David Austin, whose perf gives new meaning to “still life”). Dad’s last wishes to Chris were to record on vid cam his passing and the aftermath, thus allowing pic to indulge in film-within-film conceit.
Fortunately, as more and more family and guests arrive for the quasi-wake, device gives way to an ensembler.
Dad’s current lover is a shopaholic named Judy (Judy Greer), whose tendency to talk to her beloved corpse is only the start of a long day which includes doing the nasty on the bedroom floor with Dad’s eldest, Matt (Matt Keeslar).
Middle son Jeremy (Sisto) has the strangest trip of all, as he finds himself gradually drawn into a vaguely homoerotic bond with motor mouth Eric (Cole), here as the date of Meadow (Meadow Sisto), who — due to familial marriages and re-marriages — is both cousin and stepsister to the three brothers.
Jaymes’ script cleverly suggests that a pattern of jumping between partners was set in the previous generation, not only by Dad with his absurdly young amour but with Uncle Aled (Tom Carroll), who’s both uncle to the sons and also their late mom’s second husband and father to Meadow.
A gnarlier family tree is hard to imagine, and though some viewers will never sort it all out, the escapades and encounters are so cannily observed and played that a mood of confusion actually contributes to the frothy, emotionally dangerous mix.
Pic will be seen as the lighter side of “The Celebration,” both in terms of its ad-hoc and nervy approach to characters (viewed, as in that pic, in frequent neck-up shots and in close quarters) and in its view of the stained legacy of a powerful patriarch.
The extended, drug-fueled duo between Sisto and Cole is quite magical, while Greer is allowed to exercise her best comic instincts (especially in tandem with the deadpan Keeslar). Group of thesps obviously enjoys every moment, while hardly lessening the negative effect of an excessively talky script. Abe Levy’s widescreen vid lensing ably keeps up with the ever-active actors, and Daniel Teper’s keyboard score is a fine accompaniment.