Projections - Movie Reviews

Family Man Family Man

Everyone ponders: what could have been.  If a different door had opened and an alternate path followed, what would the effect be.  For Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) the possibility becomes clear on a snowy Christmas morning when he awakes in a suburban New Jersey bedroom, far from the powerful Wall Street trading position he holds and even further from his opulent penthouse bachelor condo in the center of New York City.

"What if" creates a strong attraction and it reminds us of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.  In this reverse of It's a Wonderful Life the angel Cash (Don Cheadle), rather than removing Jack from his family as Henry Travers' Clarence did for Baily, places Jack Campbell in the center of a middle class suburban household complete with a wife, Kate (Tea Leoni), and two children jumping on his bed.

In his new world, far from the power of mergers and acquisitions, his authority and influence is reduced to recommending the best tires for customers at Big Ed's tire emporium, owned by his father in law.  The rewards granted by his angel are highly questionable: he loses his Ferrari along with his twenty four hundred dollar suits.  As we expect, Jack begins to appreciate the unsettling confused day to day grind of a husband who finds his plans for a sensual night ended by fatigue and kids who play the violin like Jack Benny while thinking he is an alien in their father's body.

The camera frames the delicate Leoni perfectly as the understanding loving wife and former girlfriend, her passionate plea, that they grow old together in the modest house and share grandchildren summarizes the sentimental power of this film genre.  Cage moves from supreme confidence on Wall Street to a soft dependent spouse falling in love with his wife.

Of course the deck is stacked, we know the middle class family life is going to out weigh the glitter of the power Jack begins with.   But how Jack moves is not the smoothest of events.  Director Brett Ratner places Jack and Kate in the middle of a busy airport to decide critical and private matters in a scene that is uncomfortable and illogical.

Cage's ability carries the story; he is believable in both roles and Leoni offers credible support.  Their journey is meaningful and enjoyable but the resolution is powerless to conger up the emotion and satisfaction that Travers' Clarence thinks up and we find ourselves satisfied but not inspired by Jack Campbell's amended life.

Family Man

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