Directed by: #SeanAnders
Written by: Sean Anders
At first glance, Instant Family might bring forth the sceptics, tired of another cheesy and cliché family film that does nothing new for cinema. The cheese is present. The clichés are undeniable. But the warmth from an array of excellent performances leaves us with something far from an exhausted formula.
Based in part on the experiences of director Sean Anders, Instant Family chronicles Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Byrne) as they throw themselves into the world of fostering. Through a series of spontaneous decisions, they end up taking home Lizzy (Moner) and her younger siblings Juan and Lita. Typical chaos and comedy ensue. Juan is moronic and Lita a screaming brat, whilst Lizzy attempts to undermine her foster parents at every turn.
There are moments where Instant Family seems it might fall into the irredeemable traps of its genre and produce some cheap Daddy Day Care predictability. Often the script is far too embellished and there is a heap of unnecessary characters.
But as the film delves further into the realities of abandonment and abuse, it doesn’t shy away from connecting with an audience on a deeper level also. Where most fall flat at combining comedy and true pain, Instant Family thrives. The foster support meetings are both laugh out loud and incredibly heart-breaking. The message is important and consistent – attempting to laugh in the face of inescapable pain is how we get by. And the hilarious addition of a single mum wanting her Blind Side moment alleviates tension beautifully.
Wahlberg and Byrne are strong leads, but the standout performance is from Moner. Lizzie is complex and broken, strong and fierce. She is loyal to the core, but confused how that translates to a family that offers her the same virtue. The inner turmoil she experiences throughout the story may very well resonate with those who are in the system due to parental abuse or drug use. She is inspiring, and the script gives Moner freedom to display her talent as a witty, strong and emotional actress.
Anders could have kept the runtime to a standard 90 minutes, but in using the extra half hour, he provides moments throughout that ease the characters into their new environments and relationships, continually testing each other and allowing the audience to see exactly why and how the family find their way together. Therefore, believability is perhaps the most essential aspect of Instant Family’s success.