How that came to be is depicted in the made-for-HBO film Cinema Verite, directed by the American Splendor team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, with Diane Lane (Secretariat) and Tim Robbins (Green Lantern) respectively starring as Pat and Bill, the heads of the Loud family. Shooting their every move — every highlight, every lowlight — is series creator Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close).
While Bill is more interested in his career and an affair with a neighbor (Lolita Davidovich, Hollywood Homicide), Pat is living vicariously through eldest son Lance (Thomas Dekker, Kaboom, A Nightmare on Elm Street remake), a "free spirit" who's fled the crushing weight of suburbia to New York City, where he can be himself, if you know what we mean.
You do, which is why I find it baffling that Lance's coming out to his family — unless I just missed it — was not depicted. Verite's ending is rushed, but then, the whole telefilm seems that way. Don't expect to get to know the four kids who are not Lance.
Robbins is hardly in the thing, as the scripts rightly makes Pat the story's center, thereby making this quite an hour and a half for Lane. She gives a great performance dependent solely on her considerable skills for a change, rather than relying at least in part on her considerable looks. (Speaking of looks, when did Robbins morph into John C. Reilly? Just curious.)
Even with its flaws — nonfatal ones, it should be noted — Cinema Verite is an unspectacular, but irresistible account of a social experiment that forever changed TV and our popular culture. It beats watching all 12 hours of its source material, which is now so dated and old hat, it's difficult to digest in anything other than conservative bites. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• An American Family: Anniversary Edition DVD review
• Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Blu-ray review
• Green Lantern Blu-ray review
• Kaboom DVD review
• A Nightmare on Elm Street Blu-ray review