The family has all gathered for Edmund Collins (Rip Torn)'s funeral, and his widow Charlotte (Piper Laurie) has asked granddaughter Kate (Zooey Deschanel) to deliver the eulogy. They're a weird mob: her pot-smoking father Daniel (Hank Azaria), control-freak Aunt Alice (Debra Winger), foul-mouthed Uncle Skip (Ray Romano) and his smart-alec twin and tentative Aunt Lucy (Kelly Preston) who has brought along her lesbian friend Judy (Famke Janssen). When Charlotte takes an overdose of sleeping pills, she is cared for in hospital by nurse and old family friend Samantha (Glenne Headly). Kate's ex-boyfriend Ryan (Jesse Bradford) is at hand to lend a shoulder, as it becomes clear this will be a funeral like no other.
Review by Louise Keller:
Stories about dysfunctional families always hit a nerve, and Eulogy hits plenty of them. Yet despite a dream cast and characters so wacky that it's fun to simply sit on the sidelines, the end result is a bit of hybrid. Michael Clancy's black script offers some wonderful moments and some that simply do not work. In part, the emotional tone of the film is at odds with itself - slapstick comedy mixed with deep and meaningful. But if you are not expecting too much, you will probably have a rollicking good time with this witty and biting wacky comedy.
It's a terrific ensemble cast, and Zooey Deschanel as Kate, the wide-eyed college student and Hank Azaria as Daniel, her marijuana-smoking father are especially good. Through Kate's eyes we meet the whole family, who is gathered together for the funeral of her life-embracing grandfather (Rip Torn) who has just died. There's his beleaguered and suicidal widow (Piper Laurie), their four adult children and their families. Ray Roman's Skip has an uncontrollable mouth and two brat boys who take after him; Debra Winger's aggressive Aunt Alice has seemingly traumatised her husband and their three children into silence; Kelly Preston's vulnerable Aunt Lucy is tentative to introduce her same-sex partner Judy (Famke Janssen) and Hank Azaria's Daniel keeps a tight lid on his life in the porn industry.
They're mostly a bunch of crazies who have passed on the crazy gene to their children. All except Kate, who is the only sane one, but every time she and ex-boyfriend Ryan (Jesse Bradford) get together, she is mortified when a family member appears in the most bizarre circumstances. Who could imagine rolling in the grass in an isolated field could be so rudely interrupted by the terrifying sight of grandma jumping from a speeding car and headed your way? Watch out for Glenne Headly, who plays a po-faced nurse with a surprisingly intimate connection with the family. But this is a family full of secrets as they are all about to discover.
Under the surface frivolity lies themes of family resentment, jealousies and misunderstandings, but when Kate delivers her heart-felt eulogy, it is clear that everyone in the family has been touched. Clancy's script offers some inspired moments and makes us care for the characters, even at their most incredible wackiest. Eulogy may not last a lifetime, but it's fun while it lasts.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's the old let's get 'em together at the funeral trick, given a last minute twist to add yet another characteristic adornment to an already bulging list of characters. Writer/director Michael Clancy has an impressive cast to portray them, as well, but he succumbs too often to the temptations of character comedy, allowing the tone to serpentine like Alan Arkin in The In-Laws, between lightweight sit-com and solid comedy. The pathos and the irony is outweighed by the contrived and the overstated.
Clancy's script is better than his direction, with several high points in both dialogue and scene construction. The material is darkly funny but not so dark as to be vicious; families are the most fertile group for inter-personal friction, as well as for intimate and compelling love of various kinds. This is the film's attraction and it engages whenever it touches the truth.
In some scenes, though, the truth is sacrificed for the sake of a gag, which is forgivable in sit coms on tv, but less so on the big screen.
There are quite a few laughs and some recognisable examples of human frailty and weakness, all of which makes the film both enjoyable and a trifle irritating; if only he'd stuck to the bleak tone of the best scenes, Euolgy would have been worth eulogising.
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CAST: Hank Azaria, Jesse Bradford, Zooey Deschanel, Glenne Headly, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Kelly Preston, Ray Romano, Rip Torn, Debra Winger
PRODUCER: Kirk D'Amico, Lucas Foster, Steven Haf, Richard Barton Lewis
DIRECTOR: Michael Clancy
SCRIPT: Michael Clancy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Chapman
EDITOR: Richard Halsey, Ryan Kushner
MUSIC: George S. Clinton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Lipton
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 24, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: June 20, 2005