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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU / LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (2013)

Gifted writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda skirts a cavalcade of squishy issues in this warmly effective family drama using that hoariest of ideas, a Switched-At-Birth mix-up. Open with two adorable 6-yr-olds as subjects/ victims before raising your bid by making one set of parents wealthy over-achieving A-listers with an antiseptic life-style and elite Private School on the horizon for their only son. On the other side, carefree unambitious parents, with a messy lifestyle for three rambunctious independent kids. A set-up that's pure 1950s Psych 101. Did we mention that wealthy Dad is also taller, more handsome, with a fuller head of hair and . . . mother issues! Koreeda doesn’t miss a trick! Yet he gets away with the melodrama & over-simplified class issues not thru embracing & stylizing them, a la Douglas Sirk, but with a spare, elegant visual style that refuses to push obvious buttons. Instead, big teary moments elided by jumping over as many plot beats as possible without losing the thread of the story. By film’s end, as two sets of parents deal with choices they may live to regret (especially in light of ‘rich father’s’ personal/emotional growth), you may feel as teary & conflicted about things as everyone on screen.

DOUBLE-BILL: In the modern era, Switched-At-Birth stories come across as a cheap dramatic gimmick, easier to swallow as comedy. START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME/’70, with priceless perfs from Donald Sutherland & Gene Wilder as mismatched twins, is a mess of a film that works comic magic.

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