Immediate Family

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Iím a huge fan of Mary Stuart Masterson and believe her to be a highly under-rated actress.  No matter what the genre, she seems to be equal to the task, appearing in such feature films as Heaven Help Us, Some Kind of Wonderful, Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny & Joon, Bed of Roses and more, appearing in made for TV films like Black and Blue and On the 2nd Day of Christmas, and television series like Kate Brasher, Law & Order: SVU and Mercy.  When I like an actor or actress, I try to get a hold of as many of their films as I can to get a feel for their acting over the years.  Immediate Family is one of Mary Stuart Mastersonís older works.

            Immediate Family stars Glenn Close and James Woods as Linda and Michael Spector, a successful couple who want to have children.  They try all avenues and are faced with the fact that they will have to adopt.  Scary as the prospect is, they go forward with it and are lucky enough to find a teenage couple willing to allow them to adopt their unborn child.  Lucy Moore (Mary Stuart Masterson) and her boyfriend Sam (Kevin Dillon) love each other and plan to stay together, but realize they are too young for the responsibility of parenthood. 

            The couples agree to meet and find that they like each other and have things in common despite the age difference.  Lucy believes that the Spectors are the perfect parents for her unborn child and will be able to give the baby all the things she currently canít.  As the due date approaches, Lucy and Linda become close, but when the baby is born, things change.  Lucy is unsure whether she can go through with the adoption.  Will the Spectors find that they have gotten their hopes up about finally becoming parents only to have those hopes dashed?  Can they go through the adoption process again, knowing how hard it was the first time?

            As I remember correctly, there wasnít a great deal of hype surrounding this film when it first hit the theaters.  Interesting when you think of the cast: Glenn Close, who already had some hits under her belt with The Big Chill, The World According to Garp and Fatal Attraction; James Woods, who received excellent reviews for his roles in Holocaust, The Onion Field, True Believer and more; and Mary Stuart Masterson coming off the successes of Heaven Help Us, Some Kind of Wonderful and Chances Are.  Knowing how successful all three actors have been in dramatic roles, you would have thought people would be buzzing about this film when it hit the theaters in 1989.

            Despite the lack of hype, the film was actually pretty good.  An examination of the emotional turmoil attached to adoption as seen from both sides of the transaction, Immediate Family is a great vehicle for the selected cast.  Sappy at times, the film is mostly an emotional exploration of what it is like to be a prospective adoptive mother and the woman who is about to give a baby up for adoption.  Glenn Close is entirely believable as a woman who wants desperately to be a mother.  Mary Stuart Masterson portrays Lucy as a nervous and uncertain teenager with more reservations than she thinks about giving away her child.  James Woods takes more of a back seat to things as does Kevin Dillon, who pretty much plays the role of Sam the same way he has many a role prior to this film - as a thick-minded thug with very few options in life.

            Despite the predictable ending, I found the film to be fairly accurate in its portrayal of one particular type of family who might put a child up for adoption - the teenage parent.  I was disappointed in the lack of special features on the DVD version of the film, but realized that I really didnít need to have special features to enjoy the film itself.  Immediate Family is a film worth seeing for any fan of the emotional drama.  You may not need a great many tissues, but you definitely will find yourself smiling by the last scene.        


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