6 March 2014 | zetes
Uneven, but good
Whenever trying to memorialize the recently departed, I tend to seek out lesser known films by them, or at least films that I haven't seen. I'd always wanted to see this film, adapted from the Stuart Smalley sketches from Saturday Night Live. I remember Siskel & Ebert liking the film quite a bit back in the day, plus the star is now my Senator. And this is actually quite a good film. What's most surprising about it is it's actually quite serious for what it is. In fact, trying to get the serious subject to work while also trying to keep the same style of comedy the sketches had on SNL makes it a little tonally uneven, but I love what they were trying. Al Franken stars as Stuart Smalley, who hosts a cable access show called Daily Affirmations, where he reveals his many problems to his small audience and tries to work through them. As the film opens, his producer fires him. Soon after, his aunt dies so he goes back home to Minneapolis for the funeral. His family is hugely dysfunctional, with many drinking and weight problems. He tries to help. The film takes the problems entirely seriously. I mean, there is comedy, but the family dysfunction is never the butt of the joke. Al Franken is very good and the character is given more subtlety than he had on SNL. Vincent D'Onofrio plays his younger brother, Harris Yulin his father, Shirley Knight his mother and Lesley Boone his sister. Laura San Giacomo and Julia Sweeney also co-star as Stuart's friends. Not a great movie, but a nice one.