Monday, June 14, 2010

Dads Behaving Badly: A Look at Cinema's Worst Fathers

Looking for something to watch this Father's Day?  It's probably best to avoid any of these movies:

 Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990). Air guitar enthusiast and mob boss Don has a twisted take on family values.
The Godfather (1972).
The Godfather. Part II (1974).
The Godfather. Part III(1990).  

Noah Cross (John Huston), China Town (1974). He impregnates his own daughter and then makes her give up the kid while making the whole situation seem like her fault.  Nice guy. 
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Darth Vader (James Earl Jones, Edward Prowse, and Hayden Christensen), Star Wars Trilogy and Prequels (1977-2005). Sure Darth Vader is a big jerk with his creepy breathing, killing people, and general evil-doing, but he does sacrifice himself for his son in the end, so he has a cuddly side.
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Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), The Shining (1980).  Jack is a recovering alcoholic and rage-a-holic who becomes the winter caretaker of The Overlook Hotel.  He takes his family with to keep him company.  The hotel is built on a former Native American burial ground, is inaccessible in the winter because of snow, and a previous caretaker got a bad case of cabin fever and killed his family.  Sounds like a fun place for a family vacation, huh? 
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Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), Vacation films (1983-present).  Griswold is more clueless than evil, though his family vacations usually end with police intervention.  Griswold's offenses include holding a guard hostage at the Disney-esque Wally World, gambling away all the family's money while in Vegas, and accidentally convincing his hillbilly brother-in-law to kidnap his boss.
National Lampoon's Vacation(1983).
National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985).
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989).

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), American Beauty (1999). Both Lester and his wife Carolyn (Annette Benning) are hopelessly self-absorbed.  Lester goes through a yuppie awakening and quits his job. Instead, he spends most of his waking moments fantasizing about sleeping with his teenage daughter's best friend.  Or working out, so his daughter's best friend will want to sleep with him.
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Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), The Royal Tenenbaums(2001). Royal was never the most caring father.  He shot one of his kids with a BB gun, stole money from his kids, and always reminds Margot that she's adopted. When he gets kicked out of the hotel he's been staying at, Royal fakes stomach cancer so he can return to the family home and reconnect with his family.

Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels), The Squid and the Whale (2005).  Bernard is arrogant, emotionally distant intellectual snob whose long suffering wife (Laura Linney) eventually leaves.  He poisons his son Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) against everyone, including his mother, who doesn't meet Bernard's intellectual standards.   
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Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), There Will Be Blood (2007). Daniel Plainview is a ruthless oil man who adopts H.W. after his father dies in a mining accident.  After H.W. loses his hearing from a rig explosion and becomes increasingly violent, Daniel leaves him on a train (though it is in part for H.W.'s own good).  H.W. later returns.  As an adult, when H.W. informs Daniel of his intent to start his own drilling business, Daniel disowns him.
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Donald Sinclaire (J.K. Simmons), The Vicious Kind (2009).  This movie was produced in part by Neil LaBute, so naturally every character in it is pretty terrible and there is plenty of lady-hating.  Donald is certainly no exception to this.  When his wife left him, he told his two sons that his wife cheated on him and kept them away from her even when she was dying of cancer.  Quite a contrast from his performance as super nice dad, Mac MacGuff, in Juno.
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