Last weekend my husband managed to get free tickets via the Sky Movies app to see the new movie Instant Family. From what I’d seen advertised, I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this film and I’d never have seen it without the freebies. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this was so much more than a “crazy family” comedy and I have to shout about it to make sure everyone else gives it a chance!
The plot revolves around middle-aged couple Pete and Ellie, who after years of building up their careers decide that maybe it’s time they started a family. Pete jokes that they have left it a little late and he wishes he could have an instant 5-year-old so he won’t be an old Dad. This gets Ellie thinking about going down an adoption route and before they know what’s hit them, they have fostered three siblings, including one very mixed-up teenager.
There was a real journey in the film which included all the ups and downs that come with adopting children who may have psychological problems. Here are my thoughts:
~ The trailer DID NOT DO THIS MOVIE JUSTICE!
If, like me, you watched the trailer for this during the adverts at some other movie, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a madcap, Nana comedy, like Bad Moms only with Nanas and without the jokes. They showed scenes of all the Nanas looking after the new grandkids and getting into wAcKy mIsAdVenTuuRReesSS LOLZ. In reality, the movie is nothing like that and the Grandma characters are nothing more than a bit of comic relief in what is actually a very engaging, heartfelt story. Margo Martindale didn’t even turn up until the halfway mark and I thought I’d mistaken whatever crazy trailer I saw with some other movie.
ALTHOUGH, the trailer I saw at the cinema seems to have weirdly been replaced with one with significantly less Grandma in it, so I have no idea what it was that I saw before Mary Poppins Returns. Perhaps it was one to make parents think it was a kid-friendly film. All I know is, I went in expecting Cheaper By The Dozen and what I got was a hell of a lot more substantial. (Sorry Cheaper By The Dozen fans).
~ It’s genuinely laugh out loud funny…
I laughed out loud loads of times along with the whole of the cinema - the writing is really witty and the funniest moments are the clever dialogue rather than the occasional slapstick moment. In fact, the whole script is super pacey and funny, I enjoyed it so much more than I expected. There are some super funny side-characters too and quirky moments that are really amusing. Oh, and a moment where Pete and Ellie GO OFF at a poor teenage kid which really tickled me…!
~ As well as being unexpectedly emotional
It’s clear that the script was very carefully researched by people who understand the process of fostering and adoption, and as a result I found myself in tears through too many scenes to count. The story showed every side of fostering, both the rewarding highs and the challenging lows of parenting difficult children in need of care. Ellie gives a particularly emotional speech about how many children are in desperate need of families and that just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean we should give up on them. The scenes in the foster care workshops are very well done too and probably very similar to advice given to real life couples.
~ The theme of foster caring is refreshing
I can’t remember another high-budget film that has dealt with a couple adopting in any realistic kind of way. Most movie couples try for their own children and it’s really unusual to have adopted children as part of the lead story arc. I think it’s great to bring it to the public’s attention and show there are other ways to start families than the obvious. It also doesn’t sugar-coat anything, even showing Pete and Ellie’s breaking point where they say they hate the kids they have brought into their lives. But all of this just makes the breakthrough moments even more rewarding and gives a realistic (if sometimes exaggerated) look at what a real-life situation like this might look like.
~ The on-screen married leads actually like each other
Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg are fantastic as the lead married couple who still have amazing chemistry (despite the occasional argument). It seems ridiculous that this should feel so progressive, but usually in family dramedys there is some big break-up moment between the lead couple and a ton of gender stereotypes that often paint Dad as a lazy manchild and Mum as some uptight fun-sucker. Whilst this film totally touches on typical arguments between men and women, mainly Pete and Ellie are a fun, relatable, loving couple who HAVE FUN together whilst always having each other’s backs. I thought this was great and way more representative of all the couples I know compared to how Hollywood normally portrays marriage.
~ Isabela Mona is a star
She plays the eldest foster daughter Lizzie and she really steals every scene she is in, plus she is a beautiful singer/songwriter and even performs her own song at the end of the film. I feel like we are going to see a lot more of her going forward, she would be perfect as the lead in other teen roles.
~ Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer are the comedy duo you never knew you needed
Seriously, these ladies as the adoption agency workers are hilarious in every single scene they are in and their comedic chemistry is undeniable. I’ve kind of fallen in love with them both and want a pure double act spin-off sequel now.
~ Joan Cusack has a bizarre, drawn-out cameo that makes no sense, and I think I’m cool with it?
Now I love Joan Cusack as much as the next human, but she appears so suddenly and randomly right at the end of the movie and her scene is built up so much that I kept expecting her to be some massive plot twist or something, only for her to disappear again with no rhyme or reason beyond a completely pointless, not-that-funny comedy moment. Why is she there? What is the point of her character? Was there any reason whatsoever for her 5-minute story arc that has no purpose? Is something left on the cutting room floor that fills in the inexplicable gaps in my brain? These are the questions you will ask yourself as you watch Joan Cusack appear then disappear again. But don’t worry about it. Just enjoy her presence while you have it.
~ It’s a movie with heart putting good into the world
There was just so much good in this movie. And yes there are silly, crazy moments in there, but the heartfelt drama anchors Instant Family into something that is worth people’s attention. At the end there are lots of photos of real life adopted children with their “forever families” which just shows how important it is to spread awareness of adoption agencies. I think this film had an amazing message and managed to be informative and entertaining at the same time.