“Instant Family” Review
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a perfectly happy married couple who flip houses for a living. One day, when discussing children with Ellie’s sister, they decide they should look into fostering/ adoption and set off on a journey that would change their lives forever. After going through their foster parent courses with their fearless leaders, Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), they head to an adoption fair where Pete decides to challenge himself by saying hello to the teens that everyone seems to ignore. When they both find out they like a surly older teenager named Lizzy (Isabela Moner), they begin the process of fostering and learn that Lizzy has two younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). Despite the challenge, Pete and Ellie decide to foster all three children, not knowing what they were going to have to face with three kids in the house.
Instant Family is interesting to me because I think the marketing and the way the trailers are played do a great disservice to the actual film. This is not meant to be a jab at the marketing team for the film, but the trailers play it more as a funny slapstick comedy. While there are moments like that in the film, the crux of it is the actual struggles and joy that the family finds with each other in becoming a family. It is much more heartfelt and heartwarming than the trailers would lead you to believe. I have not talked to a single person who has seen it and hasn’t loved it.
The characters have such chemistry with each other. They are strangers navigating how to be a family and what that looks like. Sometimes some of them even doubt if they want or can be that. Isabela Moner as Lizzy is spectacular and gives a performance that is incredibly nuanced in her emotions and the difficulties she would face as an older foster kid spending most of her life caring for her younger siblings. Gustavo Quiroz has a very different role than Isabela, but he plays it well with honesty and emotional conviction. Even Juliana Gamiz gives a great performance as Lita, the youngest child of the group. Together, they work well and bring a lot of the heart and emotion to the film. This may be my favorite Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne performance ever. Mark Wahlberg plays the funny guy with sometimes giving an off-color comment, but mostly he embodies that loving guy role who is just trying to do the right thing for a group of kids. Rose Byrne is superbly funny alongside Mark, but again, along with providing great comic relief, she also gives us some powerfully emotional scenes as she struggles to connect with Lizzy.
The supporting characters in the film are spectacular. Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer are two actresses I wouldn’t have put together, but they work so well in their performance of balancing off each other’s different types of humor. Margo Martindale as Grandma Sandy is hilarious and over the top, just as we expect some grandmothers to be. In contrast, we have Julie Hagerty as Jan, the other grandmother, lovely and reserved. Additionally, the other foster parents were great and provided an excellent group for humor and heartache to be represented.
What I loved most about this film is how it sneaks up on the audience. One minute you are laughing and enjoying the crazy antics of these two people trying to get all the kids a bath, to the next minute when you’re crying tears of joy and tears of sadness for what the characters experience. It is the perfect film to bring families together and remind them of what is essential in life. The film showcases the spectacular people who open their hearts and homes to children in need and give them the chance to show a little bit of what it is like to experience. The writing in the film is so honest and authentically filled with humor that you have to connect and then fall in love with these characters. Instant Family is the film you didn’t know you needed but will cherish for a long time. It is the feel-good movie of the season and will move you in ways you won’t anticipate. This family will enchant you and make you fall in love with them over and over again. Check out Instant Family in theaters on November 16th.