Notable Cast: Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Ben Schwartz, Lewis Black, Judy Greer, Kate Mara, Ron Rifkin, Taraji P. Henson, Stephen Tobolowsky
Review: To continue my indie film kick, I decided to take a chance on the under achieving Peep World, who has a cast much too talented to be getting such bland reviews. In this quirky little dysfunctional family flick, you have no choice but to appreciate your upbringing because no family has this many problems. Well, alright, so there probably are families this discombobulated, but seeing it on-screen makes it seem too over the top to really exist. Peep World tries to create the family you love to sympathize with, but instead leans more to creating the family you love to hate; for all the wrong reasons.
Peep World centers around the Meyerwitz family, and how all their “secrets” are exposed by their successful author brother Nathan (Schwartz) as he writes the “tell all” book with the same title as the film. Nathan cashed in on taking advantage of his siblings, which are none too happy with how they are painted. Jack (Hall) now looks like a sick deceiving bastard, Cheri (Silverman) looks like a raging bitch of a whore, and Joel (Wilson) looks like the family dead beat. Of course, the family all blames their problems on Henry Meyerwitz (Rifkin), their wealthy architect father who was never there for them in childhood emotionally. Henry solved all his problems with money, and shaped his kids to what they became today. So between all the siblings hating Nathan for trashing their personas and everyone hating Henry for being a callous bastard of a father, the Meyerwitz family has their share of problems. Narrated by Lewis Black, we watch as the Meyerwitz children prepare for their father’s dreaded birthday dinner, and how they cope with being projected as monsters by their brother. Yeah, stuff gets pretty hairy for the Meyerwitz family.
Googling Peep World, not as dangerous as I would have thought…
So to me, the best and worst part of Peep World is the cast. There is so, so much wasted potential I can’t even begin. My favorite actor out of all the bunch was up and comer Ben Schwartz, whom you may recognize as debonair Jean-Ralphio on the hilarious TV show “Parks and Recreation.” As seen on his College Humor skits and other random work, he’s a comedic actor with a lot of potential. But aside from that, no one really shines here. Lewis Black is only the narrator, so right off the bat I was disappointed. Sarah Silverman is one of my favorite female comedians, but her character was nothing but an overblown bitch stereotype with no depth as a character. Same thing with Rainn Wilson’s, being nothing but the usual screw up. I guess you could call Michael C. Hall the main character of the film, but again his potential is squandered. I attribute this to wanting so hard to have each character stand out, but not giving them enough time to develop. Peep World tries to shift back and forth between each character separately, until the final dinner scene of course. Just when one character is starting to get good, the film cuts away and we join another character in the middle of a meltdown. That’s the other part that struck a chord with me. Each child of the alleged evil father was an incredible self-loathing cry baby, blaming everything on other people. The whole point of the story shifts from trying to make us want to hate their father and everything he turned his children into, but along the path of the film it becomes far to easy for the audience to take their hate out on the characters themselves.
Peep World‘s story struggles mainly because there isn’t enough to make us feel sympathy for the characters. You can’t help but feel these characters are doing everything to themselves, instead of being tormented by their brash upbringing. If my dad was that much of a dick, do you think I’d really take him to a fancy dinner with a bunch of other people who hate him every year for his birthday? The dysfunctional part to everything is a little overblown, as this character study dissects each family member’s personal flaws. It delves into the reasoning why people do what they do, be it going to rehab three times or sneaking away to peep shows. But, in the end, it just makes the family seem like a bunch of jerks that we can’t relate to. The message is there, saying don’t blame other people for your own problems, but it’s lost in the spoiled rotten characters who are too unlikable to succeed.
Peep World makes the point that families have problems, but in the end they’re all we have. It just could have done it in a more down to earth way as most of us don’t have billionaire architects for fathers who can bail us out of anything. The whole point of the film was that the family secrets were unleashed by the backstabbing youngest brother of the Meyerwitz clan, and the reason for all those problems was their cold-hearted leader Henry. Too bad the characters were so out of touch with reality to realize that they were the only ones holding themselves back, and ignoring the opportunities they were given by how powerful their father was. The film comes off as almost infuriating from an audience’s standpoint, because these are the people you see in real life whom you just want to sock in the face. Hiding behind their problems by blaming everyone else is one of the worst qualities to have, and every Meyerwitz has it. For what was supposed to be a dark comedy about family values, I laughed far too little and was far too frustrated to enjoy Peep World. The ending also could have saved the film, but instead is just the final car in a massive hour and a half pileup. You want to look away, but can’t out of complete boredom.
Final Rating: 5 awkward family get togethers out of 10
“What? You’re movie needs a deadbeat loser character? I’ll be right there.” Oh Rainn, so predictable.