Movie Review Monday: Instant Family
With few new movies hitting theaters this weekend, Instant Family was our film of choice. This comedy-drama was directed by Sean Anders and written by Anders and John Morris. The film is based on Anders’ own experiences and follows a couple who decide to foster and adopt three children. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the foster parents, Pete and Ellie Wagner. The film also features performances from Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, and Julie Hagerty.
The film begins with Pete and Ellie Wagner looking over a house that they have just bought to renovate. The house is intended for Ellie’s sister and her husband, who are trying unsuccessfully to start a family. They don’t see the potential in the house and instead make a comment about Pete and Ellie not having children. This prompts them to look more closely at fostering and adoption, and the two soon find themselves attending information courses. They are invited to attend a fair, where they have the chance to go up to kids that they are interested in adopting. While they are unsuccessful at the fair, they do have an encounter with a teenager named Lizzie that gets their attention. This soon leads them to foster not just Lizzie but also her two younger siblings, and the Wagners soon get a taste of the many joys and challenges of fostering and parenting.
I was pleasantly surprised by Instant Family, which transcends the typical family comedy. This charming film manages to display a fairly honest portrayal of the ups and downs of foster care and fostering to adopt. I was impressed with the information about foster care that is weaved throughout the story. I’m pleased to say that the film never became preachy but did shine a spotlight on the plight of many in the foster care system, especially in regards to teenagers. It hilariously covers the many reasons why people decide to become a foster parents, and I love the way they utilize the foster care support group throughout the story. The film also breaks down the assumptions that many have about foster kids, and there are some lovely storylines that include people’s assumptions being changed. Ultimately, this film delivers on the comedy but never loses sight of the heart of the story.
This story about fostering is made all the better by the terrific cast that the filmmakers assembled. I think this is one of Mark Wahlberg’s better performances, and I think that Rose Byrne is fantastic in this movie. I have enjoyed many of her roles in the past, but she thrives in this role as a woman struggling with how to parent these children well. Margo Martindale has a fairly small role in the grand scheme of the movie, but her performance is a powerful one as well. The true standout, though, is Isabela Moner, who portrays Lizzie. She manages to pull off the subdued, emotional moments her character requires, and she gives the audience a glimpse into the emotional turmoil that her character experiences throughout the story. Her whole performance was genuine, and it is her relationship with Byrne’s character that moves the movie along. Honestly, the whole cast is great with people like Iliza Shlesinger utilized well to deliver on some smaller comedic moments.
Overall, Instant Family is a hilarious and moving tale that leaves audiences a little more informed about the foster care system. Personally, I am not a foster parent, but I have the privilege of having several friends who are. This inside look at fostering only increased my enjoyment of this story and all the little details and hilarious moments that accompany the process. They do an excellent job of covering that here, and at the end of the day, this is a story about family and the need for everyone to feel loved. I would highly suggest that you stuff a few tissues in your pocket and give Instant Family a watch in theaters.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.