What happens in the family…

Lindsay Lillig

Luc Besson’s “The Family” delivers a new take on the classic “mob family gone witness protection” story.

The movie opens with the Manzoni, aka the Blake, family driving through the night trying to find their new home in Normandy, France. The son and daughter, Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) are acting angsty about having to move again, and Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) just wants to get settled before her husband Giovanni, aka Fred (Robert De Niro), does anything stupid. A short and sweet setup of the mob-gone-witness protection background.

The first day in town Maggie blows up a local grocery store, Warren cons his way into some necessary connections at school, Belle beats up a carload of guys with a bad mitten racket, and Gio decides to write a book. It is this book that primarily pushes the plot along.
The books provides a narrative on and off throughout the rest of the film. Gio is writing his memoirs. This idea concerns his protection officer, Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones). The last thing a snitch in the mob needs to do is publish a memoir…especially while under witness protection…with a bounty on their head. Bludgeoning a plumber and road hauling a councilman probably is not too good of an idea either. However, the string of events that ultimately blow the family’s cover is rather unanticipated.

The climactic scene sneaks up on the audience. All of a sudden everything falls apart. The events of the night of the annual town film debate spiral out of control. So many emotions are expressed simultaneously, as should be expected in a shootout—even though it was conspired by what appear to be 1920s gangster wannabes. While an effortlessly great performance by De Niro goes without saying, the ability of the rest of the actors in the cast to hold their own on the same screen was stimulating to watch.

“The Family” is entertaining straight through to the very last line. The subtle Italian conventions provide a freshness to the storyline. And there may or may not be a scene where they watch “Goodfellas.” Go see for yourself.