Instant Family is inspired by true events where a couple decide to pursue foster parenthood by attending classes and going to a meet & greet to pick the child they want to help. They are convinced by the social worker that choosing a sibling group is the right way to go and end up with a handful of trouble kids who go through the normal growing pains and the typical trouble when the mother returns to reclaim them. It is a little cliché with the adoption/foster care issues – When will you call me Mom? Why won’t you eat what I cooked for dinner? Why are you throwing a tantrum? Why can’t you do what I ask you to do? Can I send you back?
Pete and Ellie, charmingly played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, are a bit tedious as a couple to start out but hit their stride as contemporary, hovering, would-be parents when they agree to foster, then adopt a sibling group. These children have issues associated with a disrupted lifestyle, along with a piercing scream, when their mother leaves them and they are being cared for and raised by their 15-year old sister Lizzie. Isabela Moner is sweet and beautiful and a typical teen, pushing the boundaries with the new foster parents. She has problems of her own, foremost wanting to go back with her mother. Lizzie clearly cannot perform the duties as a parent and be a kid as well. We all know that every child just needs love and we hope she finds it with her new family.
We get a bit of everything — the over the top Grandmas – Margo Martindale is laugh out loud funny with the typical “grandma” stuff — money, fun trips and her opinion even when you don’t want it. There is the recovering addict mother — whom you can see is not ready to get her children back. The sarcastic family — who berate the couple’s choices but secretly want to do it themselves. And, of course, the hysterical social worker, I LOVE Octavia Spencer, all lending a comic hand in this heartwarming story. When it comes down to it, this movie finally has satisfaction after all the tears and you actually cheer when the judge gives the resolution. Every group, every type of family that you have been watching and hoping would be success, finally come together.
You might cry, there may be some tears, but all in all you will enjoy this even if it’s a little be overdone with the foster and adoption scenarios. There are injuries, soccer games, family dinners gone wrong, you-are-not-wearing-that days and big disappointments. In the end you see it is a diverse group of folks that just want to help kids have a loving family and you realize family has many different shapes. You will laugh at the group sessions and be warmed by the outcomes. You will cheer and be happy.
More heart felt than comedy Instant Family looks toward reality in the relationships between foster kids and potential parents. It all comes a little easy in this script, probably because there was only two hours to get the story out, but it hits all the notes not harshly but comically. It is filled with the barriers many foster kids face as they move through he system and hints not at perfection but the process which can work.
Quite of often comedies about families travel a route of disaster, where no one gets along, there is hate and constant nasty words, and then suddenly at the end everything is fine. Here the path is more real, the change moves in slowly, the trust between parents and kids takes two steps back and then one forward, it’s never perfect but everyone is living better in a caring family.
Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg fit their roles just right. He is a carpenter someone who generally knows things are right or wrong and he must learn to bend a little to gain trust of the kids. Byrne has a trusting soft face and that is just what this mother needs to be to get through the comedy and anger everyone faces from time to time.
There is wonderful support from Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro as social workers attempting to find the best answers for the kids. The two play off each other bringing comedy into their serious dialogue.
Margo Martindale is a perfect grandmother Sandy, she immediately gets it, and makes the right moves to pull everything together. Sandy has the experience to understand. The other grandmother is played by Julie Hagerty nicely brings in her comic experience as she allows her face to be seriously painted by the kids.
Instant Family rises far above expectations in many ways.