Introducing The Dwights DVD Review

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Previously titled Clubland, the family dysfunction drama Introducing The Dwights brings into bittersweet focus one of the major psychological contradictions and related struggles of contemporary parenthood. Namely, the mandated sacrificial self-effacement of a parent’s more offbeat emotions and yearnings, for the sake of presenting a crucial wholesome role model for kids.

Aussie failed wannabe standup comic Jean Dwight (Brenda Blethyn) is stuck in just such a depressing rut. With two young adult children, one of them handicapped with palsy from birth, Jean is a displaced Brit and divorced alcoholic who toils miserably by day as a cafteria worker. Though her persistence never lets up, she’s beginning to feel tremendous strain from her endless audition failures. Apparently she’s violated the first rule of comedy – that you have to make people like you – as she spews an endless round of ‘phallocentric’ jokes either attacking various sins of the opposite sex or commenting obscenely about their less than satisfactory performance in bed.

On the other hand, her twenty year old son Tim (Khan Chittenden) is simply embarrassed by both his parents, whom he will painfully explain to others in a whisper, that they are ‘entertainers.’ Tim is also beginning to take a heated interest in females, which lures him away from home where Jean has become unhealthily overly dependent upon him in her physical and psychological neediness as the outside world caves in for her.

Director Cherie Nowlan partially succeeds in framing a compassionate and brutally raw portrait of a woman torn apart by an exceedingly bad case of midlife crisis, and destroyed expectations beyond parenthood. But she needed to reign in her dramatically overpowering star Blethyn a bit more, in order to give the surrounding tensions and dramatic atmosphere more room to breathe.

Warner Home Video

Rated R

3 stars

DVD Features: Trailer Gallery; Widescreen.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.