Just in time for Thanksgiving, writer/director Will Slocombe is serving an unhealthy helping of family dysfunction in the form of Cold Turkey. Rife with the tired clichés that typically afflict family dramedies and pandemic with unlikable characters, the film is as burdening as the fictional clan it depicts.
Poppy (Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show), and his second wife Deborah (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) are hosting Thanksgiving for the entire Turner brood. This includes his two daughters from a previous marriage– Lindsay (Sonya Walger, Lost) and Nina (Alicia Witt, Friday Night Lights) ,as well as his son with Deborah, Jacob (Ashton Holmes, Revenge). They each come with more than their families and significant others. Without exception Poppy’s kids are resentful of him for one reason or another, but they all arrive to their father’s house with dilemmas that require his financial assistance. All the while and still holding on to anger, they do not realize they are becoming different versions of Poppy.
The reunion sets the stage for an excess of nepotism, scab-picking and jab-throwing, none of which is executed with any real humor or honest emotion. We see a lot of Bogdanovich himself in the character of Poppy. His portrayal of the stoic, mild-mannered professor who continues to grapple with alcoholism and fidelity in his old age is easily the best performance in the film.
The other performances are not bad considering the material, but there are so few redeemable traits living in the Turner DNA that it makes it really hard to care about any of them. And, I don’t just mean that it is hard to feel compassion for them. It is hard just generally staying interested in the people or their individual stories, or even the story as a whole.
Alicia Witt is especially hard to watch as Nina, a role that is written and acted with a severely ostentatious brand of eccentricity. The significant others, small children and pets are exponentially more bearable in their supporting roles.
There isn’t anything very dark or comedic about this dark comedy. The conflict feels forced, the dialogue is trite and the pacing makes the duration of the film feel much longer than it actually is. Will Slocombe was not able to effectively create genuinely funny moments from harsh situations or assemble a family that is mess-up yet relatable. Cold Turkey is just an amalgam of crazy, and in none of the good ways.
The film is available for digital download, same day as in theaters.