THE FAMILY MAN (2000) 

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Nicolas Cage
Téa Leoni
Jeremy Piven
Don Cheadle
Makenzie Vega
Mary Beth Hurt
Saul Rubinek
Josef Sommer

Brett Ratner



Time: 125 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance/Comedy

I knew before I sat down in my seat that THE FAMILY MAN probably wasn't going to be anything special. However, I was intrigued by some of the scenes from the trailer and I wanted to see something nice for the holidays. So, I ponied up the cash and got just what I expected – an average love story with some lovely moments made sweet by good acting. Cage and Leoni raise the bar on what could have been mindless romantic drivel and actually portray a married couple who seem to be truly in love, even after years of being together. The fact that their relationship isn't real – it's just a glimpse of what might have been – they are so good together you come to believe that this fantasy is what the movie should have been about. The people they are in the real world aren't half as interesting, which is the point the film is trying to make I guess.

The film opens with a heartbreaking airport goodbye between Jack (Cage) and Kate (Leoni). They both have promising futures ahead of them. Jack is going to London for a year to accomplish his dreams. Kate knows it's a great opportunity for Jack, but feels in her heart that if he leaves the outlook for their future is bleak. She's willing to give up her scholarship to law school for a life where they stay together. Jack is unconcerned. He believes their love will survive the separation. Cut to 13 years later and Jack is about to become one of the richest men in America by closing a billion dollar deal. He succeeded in getting his career goals, but it's obvious his relationship with Kate didn't make the cut. When he receives a phone message from her, he dismisses it. The past is the past and you can't change your decisions. He's happy with the way his life turned out. Or so he thinks.

A chance intervention in a convenience store puts him in contact with a man who's about to change his life. Jack tries to help Cash (Cheadle), thinking he's a criminal thug. He's so condescending claiming how he'd like to help because he has everything he needs. Cash is flabbergasted by Jack's arrogance. Cash laughs and tells Jack that he asked for it. Jack is confused by this conversation, but not half as much as when he wakes up the next morning in bed with Kate in a house he's never seen, with children bouncing on the bed. He freaks out and tries to return to his old life only to find that it no longer exists. Cash pops up to explain that this is a glimpse of his life as it could have been had he not gone to London. Jack is trapped in this existence until he learns the lesson he must take from this other life. It's pretty clear from the film's title what that lesson will be.

"Because you thought I was *cocky*, I'm now on a permanent *acid trip*?"

When he returns "home", Kate is beside herself with fear and anger. She doesn't know what's going on with him, but he's ruined Christmas. Though he's stunned by this new life as a father and tire salesman, the one thing he's happy about is being with Kate. Seeing how wonderful and beautiful she still is takes his breath away. However, even though he realizes he never stopped loving her, he can't forget his real life and the luxuries he once enjoyed – the expensive suits, the Ferrari, the gourmet meals. Basically, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. Kate has no idea what's going on with him, but is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family together. After weeks of living this glimpse, Jack finally understands how much he missed by choosing the "road less travelled." Of course, all good things must end and when Jack returns to his real life, he is overcome with a sense of loss. He wants the dream to become reality and contacts Kate. The final scene mirrors the first with a plea in the airport for a chance at life together. The film ends with a beginning of sorts, a kernel of what may come to pass.

Though THE FAMILY MAN doesn't really say anything new, it does provide a wonderful look at a how marriage and family can positively change your life, even if one has to sacrifice some of the niceties to get them. As much as I despised Tea Leoni's performance in DEEP IMPACT, she is the heart and soul of this film. She was just amazing as a woman confident in herself and her choices. Even though she might wish for an easier life, she knows she's got the best one she could imagine. She is funny, down-to-earth and completely beautiful. Cage is good, doing well as the overwhelmed, spoiled Jack. This part really doesn't give him much chance to stretch his talent. He's likeable, but this is nothing new for him. Mackenzie Vega gives a strong, funny and heartbreaking performance as the daughter who knows Jack is not her "real" father. Of course, she's not "real" either and it's a wonderful moment in the film when Cage's character realizes that he'll never see her again. Cage and Leoni have great chemistry, which really helps this rather tired plot. The only good thing about the screenplay is the dialogue, which is poignant, sarcastic, funny, sweet and honest.

Leoni's speech at the airport in the beginning of the film is much more believable than Cage's at the end, but they both will make you want to call that special person in your life and tell them how much they mean to you. THE FAMILY MAN isn't a bad film, and in fact is a good one to see during the holidays. It just doesn't have anything new to say. If you like the actors and want a sweet way to pass the time, this film isn't a bad choice, but it won't really affect your life much one way or the other.

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