Nov 22

“Instant Family”: Humor in Foster Family Adoption

I think when people hear the words ‘foster care’ it brings to mind a lot of negativity and fear, and what I found in my travels through the system, over and over again, is that you meet the kids, and you go “Oh, they’re just kids. They’re just kids, and they need families and they need love, and they have love to give, just like any other kids.” Sean Anders, director of Instant Family (Harvard Crimson)

Film director Sean Anders reportedly hopes that not only will audiences have fun watching Instant Family they’ll also learn something about foster care adoption. A “comedy with good intentions” (The New York Times), Instant Family is based on the real-life experiences of Anders and his wife, who adopted three siblings from the foster care system.

From the official Instant Family description (on Rotten Tomatoes):

When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight.

An added bonus is the special team helping the couple (Angelus News):

Working through a pair of social workers — a by-the-books woman (Tig Notaro) and her sassy partner (Octavia Spencer) — they join a support group that’s designed to teach them about the difficulties inherent to adopting foster kids.

The trailer might be enough to interest you in helping some needy kids—or maybe not:

Anders has described his personal experiences with adoption in a Time essay:

In 2012 we got three siblings: an 18-month-old, a three-year-old and a six-year-old. We were told they’d been removed from their mother because she had a drug problem. I wasn’t worried. I thought, ‘Oh, I can do this. I’m going to be great at this.’ Then they showed up and it was like: ‘We’ve made a horrible, horrible mistake.’ The first few months were really rough. We would lie in bed at night and just try to figure out some way that we could get them out of our house. They were completely ruining all of our fun. When you get three at once you don’t have time to get your sea legs. It was kind of like babysitting someone else’s kids, but forever.

Having a sense of humor is a key asset, Anders told Peter T. Chattaway (Patheos). While those families in the know will probably appreciate the comedy involved in the film, others may carry some skepticism: “‘Oh, are they going to make fun of kids in foster care?’ And of course, that’s not what we’re doing at all,” states Anders.

Realistic events like social worker-led foster parent training classes as well as adoption picnics, at which interested parties get to meet foster kids, are depicted in Instant Family. Also, of course, the effort to keep siblings together.

Additionally, there’s a significant reason behind Anders making one of the adopted kids in Instant Family a teenager. Per Refinery29, “older children are less likely to become adopted. Within 18 months of ‘aging out’ of the system at age 18, 40-50% of teens are likely to become homeless.”

Jul 20

“Tig”: Documenting On Film a Resilient Comic Force

I’m the luckiest unlucky person. Tig Notaro

A few years ago, before Tig Notaro went through a slew of major life challenges (see previous post), she wasn’t that well known as a standup comic. But how she ultimately handled those challenges is what’s eventually set her apart as a performer and strongly boosted her appeal.

Jada Yuan, Vulture, sets up the new documentary Tig that premiered on Netflix last week:

In an ironic twist of fate, comedian Tig Notaro’s life started looking up from the moment she got onstage at the Largo comedy club in Los Angeles in October 2012 and announced, ‘Good evening, I have cancer.’ Before that funny-poignant set — highly praised by Louis C.K. and other comics — Notaro, 43, had endured a life-threatening infection, the sudden death of her mother, a breakup, and a diagnosis of bilateral breast cancer, requiring a double mastectomy. Filmmakers Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York talked Notaro into letting them follow her around for a year as she got back on her feet and prepared for an anniversary stand-up show at the Largo in October 2014. Along the way, Notaro tried to have a baby on her own, found love, and perfected a joke about her breasts getting so sick of her referring to her flat-chestedness that they tried to kill her.

Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, differs on the doc’s time span—she says two years—and adds that “the movie offers an intimate portrayal of a woman whose career is exploding while everything else seems to be imploding. Known for deadpan delivery, Notaro takes viewers on a bluntly honest journey through her travails. She may not shed any tears, but the stuff she’s talking about feels scary and raw and important.”

The love of her life is Stephanie Allynne, an actress who Notaro met on the set of an earlier movie. “But Allynne,” states Kaufman, “made it clear she was straight. So it was difficult — even for the filmmakers — to see Notaro setting herself up for what seemed like more heartbreak.”

Long story short, Allynne eventually eschewed previous ideas about her own sexual orientation—and she and Tig are now engaged to be married. Also, Tig’s no longer alone in her pursuit of having kids.

Jason Zinoman, New York Times:

What begins as a moody portrait of tragedy turns into a narrative that resembles a lovely, if somewhat mundane, romantic comedy. The structure is similar to her recent show (a version of which will appear on HBO in August), in which she took off her shirt to show the audience her scars, only to continue telling jokes topless and let her routine retake the focus. Like Ms. Notaro’s act, ‘Tig’ chronicles her struggle with cancer, then shows her triumph over it by returning to something that looks normal. It’s the smile at the end of a deadpan punch line.

Check out the trailer here:

According to Yuan, next year Notaro will also be publishing a memoir. As is so often the case, the writing process, she says, has been “therapeutic.”