You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Family ties bind originals

Nommed scripts offer contrasting generational sagas

Family has always been an integral part of American movies, whether a seemingly idyllic family in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or one literally coming apart at the seams in “Ordinary People,” or a cold-blooded crime family in “The Godfather.”

This season the theme of family runs strongly through the Oscar nommed original screenplays, whether it’s the timeless aspects of family or the unique aspects of families in the 21st century.

Almost any tale about the English royals becomes a family saga, and with “The King’s Speech,” David Seidler delves into that quintessentially dysfunctional clan to tell the story of brotherly rivalry and how a duke with a stutter became a king who could speak for a nation.

Speech therapist Lionel Logue, says Seidler, “became the big protective brother that the king wanted and never got from his own family.” Logue finally broke down the walls that years of feelings of inadequacy had put up. “He grew up with an ice queen as a mother and a strict authoritarian as a father who encouraged his older brother to tease him.”

By contrast, Christopher Nolan’s twisty head-trip of a script for “Inception” might seem unmoored from the topic of family. But the entire dream-quest of the story is based on a young heir’s issues with his father, and its hero searching for a way back to the family he lost. The denouement suggests he may only have arrived at another fantasy, but if so it’s a perfect dream of his family reunited at last.

For Mike Leigh family is not so much a dream but a comfortable reality for the happy couple and their adult son at the center of “Another Year.” Even surrounded by lonely people desperate for what they have, they manage to maintain their deep love for each. Family serves as an anchor for those that have it, and those without it seem adrift.

“The Fighter” scribes Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson kept family as a watchword. “We always said that’s what the film had to be about, boxing was just the backdrop,” says Tamasy. “It really is a brother love story but set in this incredible, crazy family,” says Silver.

“All the stuff Micky went through with Dicky’s addiction, these two had to really love each other to get through that,” says Johnson.

Those family bonds are timeless. “It’s that clan mentality,” says Silver, “they fight among themselves, but if anybody else takes them on, you better watch out, they’re all going to come after you.”

For “The Kids Are All Right” Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg mixed contemporary and classic notions of family to mischievous effect.

Says Blumberg, “We came up with this very Ozzy and Harriet type alternative family — bread winner, stay-at-home mom, two kids doing well in school — and used this as a jumping-off point to look at the universal dynamics of family through the prism of this unique one.”

Cholodenko says, “The movie starts from the presumption this is legitimate, these people are integrated into our world, not every gay family has some weird lurching Republican living next door.”

For Blumberg, “The most satisfying thing is when 50-year-old men come up and go, ‘Wow, after 20 minutes I forgot it was two women and just saw them as a couple.’ There is something so primal about it. It’s like that old quote, family is a place where if you have to go there they have to take you in.”

More on Eye on the Oscars: The Writer:
Heroes make their own rules | Family ties bind originals | Tough climb for family scripts | Arndt brought ‘Story’ home

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content