There's dysfunctional and then there's dysfunctional. The family of "Marvin's Room" makes the Simpsons look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. In fact, they're so screwed up it's something of a miracle that they don't jump up on the kitchen table in the middle of breakfast and pee in each other's cereal.
Lee (Meryl Streep) isn't urinating in anybody's morning nourishment but she's pretty good at poisoning her relationship with her son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), who'd rather reside in a mental institution than spend any time with Mom. When Lee gets a call from her estranged sister, Bessie (Diane Keaton), it's off to Florida to learn that Bessie has leukemia and life is about to get even worse.
The rest of the family is dysfunctional as well. Lee and Bessie's dad (Hume Cronyn) has been bedridden ever since a stroke and requires constant care, which makes you wonder exactly how Cronyn got the part ("Okay, Hume, now gurgle with feeling!"). Aunt Ruth (Gwen Verdon) is a wacko who watches soap operas and stimulates her brain with some electronic device that, as an added bonus, activates the garage door opener. If that weren't enough, even the town doctor (Robert De Niro) seems like he could use a good shrink.
Dysfunction is overused in films because even if the film bites, the audience can leave thinking, "hey, at least we aren't as messed up as that." Unfortunately, if you're stupid enough to spend the time to see this film, you and your family probably are in no position to be ridiculing anybody.
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