Birds of America
Director: Craig Lucas
Screenwriters: Elyse Friedman
- 2008 Sundance Film Festival
In “normal” middle-class suburban families, kids grow up, move out, and visit only on special occasions. But Morrie Tanager never got to leave. His parents died and left him, and he became the parent, raising two siblings, Ida and Jay, in the home he now shares with his wife, Betty. So it’s not surprising this family is a bit askew. Ida is a promiscuous, broke, itinerant artist; Jay, an odd duck prone to antisocial experiments; and Morrie, a chronically constipated pleaser, who hasn’t had a bowel movement in ages. When Jay goes completely off the deep end and Ida drops in unannounced, the motley clan is thrust under one roof, and childhood dynamics reemerge. The big problem is that Ida and Jay’s recklessness could upend a delicate social ritual Morrie and Betty are masterminding to secure his tenure.
Birds of America is about socialization and growing up when there are no grown-ups. For Jay it means living within social boundaries and telling an occasional lie; for Ida it’s accountability for her actions, whereas Morrie must learn to loosen codes, assert the naked truth, and release responsibility to others. What’s so satisfying and moving in Craig Lucas's eccentric, yet lyrical, comedy—besides the stellar cast—is the way the siblings’ transformations adjust the geometry of interdependence, and that genuine tenderness is the familial glue that ultimately bolsters each in the world.