5 Great Dysfunctional Family Movies on Netflix Streaming

Because some of us need something to make us feel better about our own broods over Thanksgiving weekend.

We’re very quickly charging into what is the most family-intensive season of the year. Thanksgiving’s cattle drive draws together crazy aunts, grumpy uncles and too-cool-for-school cousins from all over the globe to sit at a table while packing carbo bombs into their mouths and relentlessly talking over one another. Maybe you are blessed enough to have a family that is loving, supportive, and totally in sync with your needs; for the rest of us, here are five dysfunctional family movies available on Netflix streaming that should make you feel a lot better about your own brood.

August: Osage County (2013)

We might as well start this list with one of the more exhaustively dispiriting offerings: John Wells’s adaption of the Tracy Letts play is loud, brutal, and only occasionally relenting (mostly in a tacked-on “happy” ending for co-star Julia Roberts that literally makes no sense in context of what came before it), but it also features a stellar cast, including Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Meryl Streep — each pitted against one another in an emotional sort of Hunger Games. Just do yourself a favor and kill the picture immediately right after the last shot of Streep up on the stairs looking bewildered in order to preserve the vibe of abject misery.

Force Majeure (2014)

One could attempt to make the argument that the film is actually about how honest communication is the key to strong marriages and so forth, but as far as this acid-wash dramedy goes, you’d be pretty far off base. Instead, Ruben Östlund’s film is a biting piece of social commentary concerning the travails of an unfortunate husband and father. While lunching at a sumptuous ski resort in the Alps, he runs away and deserts his wife and kids at the table when an avalanche appears to be happening behind them. The resulting emotional carnage after it turns out to be a false alarm is arguably a worse fate than being buried alive in snow. You will likely never look at your electric toothbrush in quite the same way again.

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

As the title might suggest, it’s not exactly a feel-good film, but Sophia Coppola’s directorial debut isn’t exactly a tearjerker, either. Ethereal and wispy, the film is told from the perspective of a smitten outsider — much like Jeffery Eugenides’ source text — which makes the exercise feel less like a gritty drama and more a kind of beguiling bit of myth-making. An early vehicle for Kirsten Dunst, and with a strong soundtrack by Air, the film holds up remarkably well, even if the fortunes of those involved have wavered.

Georgia (1995)

Don’t get twisted by the smarmy voiceover in the trailer declaring the film “magic” and “extraordinary” and depicting it as some sort of heartfelt tribute to sisters and overcoming big odds. None of that takes into account just how good Jennifer Jason Leigh is at playing emotionally anarchic women on the verge of a total meltdown. Ulu Grosbord’s film — from a sterling screenplay by Leigh’s mother, Barbara Turner — is nowhere close to uplifting. Instead, we watch as these two loving sisters try desperately to get closer to one another, but instead end up considerably further apart.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Writer/Director Lisa Cholodenko has a way of infusing her films with an incredibly lived-in feel. It gives the relationships between her characters that much more of an honest, incendiary quality, as if something could blow up at any minute. This much-lauded drama about a lesbian couple, their children, and the kids’ natural father, starts messy, gets much more murky, and ends in a place closer to heartbreak than satisfying resolution. Cholodenko pulls great performances from her cast — including Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska — but it’s the intricately conceived connections and spot-on emotional calibrations that really give the film its sizable kick.

Follow Piers Marchant on Twitter @kafkaesque83, or on his blog, Sweet Smell of Success.

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