Retro Review: Family Man

Is it a revisiting of the classic Jimmy Stewart “It’s a Wonderful Life” or a brilliant attempt at making one of the most engaging Christmas movies?

“Family Man” tells the story of a stuffy Wall Street investment banker (Nicolas Cage) who believes he has everything he could possibly dream about.

On Christmas Eve, he gets a phone call from his college sweetheart which he ignores.

Upon walking home from the office, Cage runs into a man (Don Cheadle) who confronts him on his beliefs (It is basically fate). Cage returns to his luscious penthouse and falls asleep.

When he awakens he is shocked. He has a woman (Tea Leoni) wrapped around his waist and two rug rats running into the room. He jumps up and runs out the door. He vigorously drives back to the city where he tries to get back to his penthouse.

A familiar man (fate again!) asks him to take a ride. Fate tells him what he is experiencing is a “glimpse” at what could have been.

What life would have been like if he would have made a life with his college sweetheart. How will this experience change his life? Would this life have been better? Could the two worlds coexist together?

This little film could be the greatest relief this Christmas season has to offer.

It’s enduring, captivating and it will make you smile and cry at the same time.

It’s really nice to see Cage leave his action and dramatic roles for something this enduring. I also do have faith that Tea Leoni may have a longer career than her husband, David Duchovny. She is so full of life here.

The film’s clichéd ending is a little predictable but from the moment the “Fate” character spoke you knew it would end up this way. I liked the subtle change between the two worlds and this aspect made the plot a little more realistic. I could feel the audience cringing and screaming for the “family” world to never leave the Cage character.

While watching the third act of this film I was reminded of the fantasy film, “Somewhere in Time” where a man wills himself back to the 1920s to be with the woman he loves. That film ended brilliantly and shockingly.

I cringed at the thought “Family Man” would do the same. The ending “Family Man” has now celebrates the holidays but was it really the best ending.

Enduring and subtle is the best way to describe this little movie. It’s nice to see that Hollywood can still make holiday films with heart.

4 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: December 4, 2000

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Family Man

  1. I loved The Family Man. It was a really good film. I also like Tea Leoni, but i think her husband’s career is going well. Have not heard he has another Golden Globe nomination for best actor in the series Californication.

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