Ang Lee's look at a dysfunctional family's dealings with swingers, puberty, and death.
OverviewEnsemble drama based on the Rick Moody novel of the same name. Features two dysfunctional families trying to deal with the political and social upheaval of the 1970s and their various and often self destructive methods of dealing with it.
CreationProducer, James Shamus was introduced to the novel by his wife, literary scout Nancy Krikorian. He then took the book to Ang Lee, the only director he considered for the project. They already had an established relationship, having previously worked together on four films. Producer, Ted Hope was also included in the mix, having worked on the previous four films.
Plot SummaryThe film opens with a dinner party, where a group of adults are discussing 1970s pop culture. The two families are introduced as the Carver and Hood family. The two families are shown to be disconnected. Ben Hood is engaging in an affair with Janey Carver and appears deeply unhappy with his family life. His wife Elena also appears dissatisfied, trying to expand her horizons and escape her boring life but unsure how to do so. Their daughter Wendy plays sexual games with schoolkids and they seem oblivious to the situation. Their son Paul occasionally takes drugs and is obsessed with sleeping with a local schoolgirl. The Carver boys are also disconnected from their parents. Mikey plays sexual games with Wendy and Sandy has obsessively violent tendencies.
Jim Carver often travels for his job and it is revealed that his family often fail to notice his absence. Janey continues to sleep with Ben as well as a number of other men in his absence and appears to find his presence an inconvenience. Elena makes multiple attempts to create excitement in her life including becoming involved with a local church and getting caught shop lifting.
During a sexual encounter with Janey, Ben discusses his annoyance with his job. She appears to tire of him and excuses herself, fleeing his house. Ben finds his daughter Wendy in the Carver's basement initiating a sexual act. He tries to explain sex to his daughter, although Wendy appears to already posses the knowledge.
As a storm hits New Canaan, Ben tells his wife that he discovered their daughter in the basement. She eventually works out that he is engaging in an affair with Janey, the pair argue. They then attend a swinger party, apparently unaware of its nature. Elena decides she will participate in the sexual element in order to get revenge on her husband.
Their son Paul takes a train to Manhattan to attend a party. His friend Francis is also there and he fails in attempts to bed his crush when she reveals he is like a brother to her. Wendy goes to see Mikey but finds Sandy instead. They climb in to bed naked, drinking vodka, falling asleep, before Wendy has a chance to take things too far.
At the swingers party Ben becomes drunk revealing his affair with Janey after she chooses another man's keys. Jim and Elena are paired off and after a clumsy sexual encounter he drives her home. Mikey is walking alone in the storm and rests on a guardrail. He is electrocuted when a power line falls and connects with the rail.
Elena, back at the Carver's, finds her daughter in Sandy's bed and orders her to get dressed. Janey is also at her house curled up in the fetal position on her bed. Ben discovers Mikey's body while he is driving home. He takes Mikey to the Carvers and the two families are shocked by what has happened. They go to the train station to retrieve Paul where Ben breaks down sobbing, shocking everyone in the car.