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Owen Wilson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Zoolander 2”) and Ed Helms (“The Hangover” films, “We’re the Millers”) star in the Alcon Entertainment comedy “Father Figures,” marking the directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Lawrence Sher (“The Hangover” films). Wilson and Helms are Kyle and Peter Reynolds, brothers whose eccentric mother raised them to believe their father had died when they were young. When they discover this to be a lie, they set out together to find their real father, and end up learning more about their mother than they probably ever wanted to know.
It’s not Mamma Mia! but something like it. The actors play twins Kyle and Peter Reynolds in the film (which, by the way, was once called Bastards). When they learn their mother (Glenn Close) embraced the free love of the ’70s and doesn’t really know who their real father is, the siblings narrow it down to a few options and set out to find him. Along the way, they learn way too much about their mother’s past antics, including Ving Rhames’ nickname for her.
More to the point: is there, as a handful of critics have suggested, something questionable about Denis’s choice to make a film about victimhood that refrains from exploring the psychology of the victims? For all Créton’s natural, almond-eyed soulfulness, Justine remains an opaque enigma, while Chiara Mastroianni, playing Subor’s mistress, radiates loneliness and desperation but rarely seems to have a will of her own (that is, until she finally lashes out in a last-ditch act). Marco is our entry point into their sufferings, and he’s as much an outsider as we are: a passive, world-weary onlooker who’d rather be floating out at sea; the quintessential noir protagonist in over his own head. But all this, I think, serves to justify the supposed lack of empathy in Bastards. It suggests the extent to which the film’s shadowy corporate Paris is of a piece with Chinatown’s rotten-to-the-core Los Angeles, or the Chicago that told Tony Camonte in Scarface that the world was his: within a thoroughly amoral universe in which women are bought and bartered by men of absolute power, victimhood consists precisely in being commoditized, flattened out, reduced to a cipher.
J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, and Terry Bradshaw play potential fathers, while Katt Williams plays a hitchhiker, who promises he’s definitely not a serial killer. The Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer and June Squibb also feature in Father Figures, directed by first-time helmer Lawrence Sher, the cinematographer of the Hangover movies.
Justin Malen (Office Christmas Party) penned the screenplay, while the film is set for theaters on Dec. 22.