Welcome to Movie Monday where I write heartfelt reviews about movies that focus on feelings rather than technicalities.
I know nothing about movies except for that I love watching them and eating movie theatre popcorn while I do and I decided to create these reviews for people like me, who care about the popcorn as much as the movie, because I find it frustrating to only be able to find reviews written by stodgy old movie critics that focus on the details that the normal population would never notice.
*No spoilers are shared in the making of these reviews*
Instant Family is based on a real story and stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrnes who play Pete and Ellie, a husband and wife who spend their time flipping houses, a la Chip and Joanna, but feel that there is something missing from their lives.
This feeling leads them in to the world of foster care. Like most of the couples there, they are hoping to foster a young child. However, they end up fostering three siblings, including a teenager, which leads them to having to learn the ropes of parenting and all of the struggles that not only go along with being a parent, but with fostering kids. This movie is a great dramedy but some of the humour may not be appropriate for younger kids.
I am a total sucker for movies and TV shows that have a strong tie to families and their relationships. This Is Us, Parenthood, Wonder, and The Family Stone are some of my favourites, they give me ALL THE FEELS and I love it!
Sadly, since we haven’t been watching much live TV, I hadn’t even heard of Instant Family until I happened to stumble upon Mark Wahlberg doing an interview on Ellen. I stopped to watch because I swear Mark gets better with age, but kept watching because I was instantly hooked on the premise of this movie and knew that if it was done anywhere close to as well as some of my favourites, then I was going to love it!
Let me tell you, I wasn’t wrong! Instant Family has officially been added to the list of movies I’ll be watching over and over again and here’s why!
The Good (and the Bad)
I know I just said that I loved the movie, but there were two things I didn’t love about the movie and I want to get those things out of the way first so we can talk about all of the things I loved about it!
For me, I found the opening couple of minutes to feel a little slow. They, of course, were setting up backstory for why Pete and Ellie decided to go in to fostering but I felt it could have been done a little better, with some stronger comedy, and it would have made the movie that much better. The second thing I didn’t love was that during one of the most poignant and emotional moments of the movie, they tried to break it up with some awkwardly timed comedy using a character who had no relevance or part in the story. If they had left those parts out, or executed the comedy in a different way that made sense for the story, I think this movie would be reeealllyyy close to the top of my favourite movies list (although it’s going to be pretty difficult to bump The Martian out of the top spot)!
Now the things I did love.
The thing I loved the most about this movie is that this story felt real. Which it should, since it was based on the director’s real life experience with fostering and adopting children. But they brought you through parts of the fostering process that other shows that have showcased fostering, like This Is Us, didn’t. You see the background and the preparation that goes in to becoming foster parents and the struggles that go in to making such a momentous decision. The decision to bring people in to your home who you don’t yet love, who don’t love you, and pretend you’re a family is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly and many moments in the movie highlight this.
I loved the development of the relationship Pete and Ellie have with their three foster kids, Lita, Juan, and Lizzie. The ups and downs, the breakdowns, melt downs, and the first time you hear the kids call Pete and Ellie mom and dad all hold a special place in the story and they feel real. None of them are too over done and the simplicity (yet emotional complexity) of their struggles really made the story.
I also really enjoyed the cast of supporting characters. Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro play the social workers who guide Pete, Ellie, and all of the other foster parents along their journey and of course, in true Tig and Octavia fashion, they bring their own humour to the movie! The movie also shows both Pete and Ellie’s families and their reactions and roles in supporting them along their journey (which brings its own set of challenges) and getting to see the struggles of the other foster parents Pete and Ellie had come to know during their journey is a nice added touch. All of these supporting characters play such a pivotal role in the story and really add an extra layer of dimension to the story. Whether it’s Pete and Ellie’s families adding their own challenges to the story or the Foster Support Group giving Pete and Ellie a chance to express their frustrations over fostering and get help with their problems in a way that is both comical and emotional, it feels like every scene in the movie is done with intention and this really helps to draw you in to and become invested in Pete, Ellie, and the kid’s journey.
One thing I do have to say is that some of the comedy in the movie was expected but most of it wasn’t. And it was nice that the previews didn’t ruin all of the good moments in the movie; I was worried about this because sometimes they feel they have to show all of the good parts to get you to see the movie but that definitely wasn’t the case. They left a lot to the imagination.
All in all, I really really liked this movie and can’t wait to watch it again. Since I went with my mom, I may even drag by boyfriend, Ryan, to see it with me just so I can watch it a second time!
If you happen to go and see Instant Family, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!