Laura Steinel’s Family starts with one of the hoarier comedy clichés: the protagonist in an extreme situation with a voiceover asking, “How exactly did I wind up here?” The extreme situation is that she’s wearing Insane Clown Posse facepaint at the Gathering of the Juggalos, but how Family gets her there is funny, charming, and — most importantly — non-judgmental. Kate (Taylor Schilling) is a socially graceless corporate-climber pressed into service by her brother Joe (Eric Edelstein) and sister-in-law Cheryl (Alison Tolman) to take care of their 11-year-old child Maddie (Bryn Vale).
The equally graceless Maddie has their own problems, including being bullied both at school and by Cheryl’s attempts to turn them into a dress-wearing ballet dancer. Maddie doesn’t like women’s clothes, and explicitly says they often don’t feel like a girl, and Family manages to be about the destructiveness of strict gender roles and the need to let children explore beyond them without making it seem like a pathology to be pitied, or damage to be fixed. These days, that’s still an achievement. PG-13 at heart but unfairly rated R because of multiple F-bombs, Family boasts a killer supporting cast, including Brian Tyree Henry, Kate McKinnon, and Matt Walsh. And remember: When you’re at the Gathering of the Juggalos, call your mom, whoop whoop!
Rated R. Opens Friday at the AMC Metreon 16.