What matters most?

Kathleen Turner as Eileen Cleary in a scene from “The Perfect Family.” Photo by Oana Marian. Courtesy of Variance Films/The Perfect Family LLC.

I was disappointed when my last trip to NYC ended before this year’s Tribeca Film Festival got underway. But today I enjoyed a bit of last year’s festival with my daughter Jennifer thanks to a review copy of “The Perfect Family”– which was an official selection of both the Tribeca Film Festival 2011 and Outfest 2011.

Outfest is an L.A.-based film festival that spotlights “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film images and artistry.” Folks who missed last year’s festival can still see some of the films as they hit movie theaters or become available in DVD mode. “The Perfect Family” opens Fri, May 18 at Harkins Theatres Valley Art in Tempe. It stars Kathleen Turner, seen last year on Broadway during a brief run of Matthew Lombardi’s “High” (performed last month in Minneapolis).

Jennifer is especially fond of old movies, as in black-and-whites. So the last movie we watched together, just a few days ago, was a little 1940 number called “Irene.” She was eager to watch “The Perfect Family” after reading a blurb about the nonconfirmist family at the heart of the film.

Dad is a recovering alcoholic. Mom has a perplexing preponderance of guilt. Their son left his family for a manicurist who elevates the hand to an errogenous zone. And their daughter is carrying “a turkey baster baby” she plans to raise with the woman she’s marrying. All rather ordinary in some ways these days.

Unless you happen to be up for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year Award, which requires letters from family members and a home visit from an esteemed clergyman from Dublin. Such is the case for suburban supermom Eileen Cleary, whose good works are evident but atypical family could cost her the honors.

Unlike a second nominee for the award, Cleary isn’t in it for the glory. She’s gunning for the prize that comes with it — a special blessing meant to absolve the recipient of all sins. She’s an uber-anxious woman whose only solace seems to be time spent in prayer or confession. When life intervenes, she’s a hot mess. And frankly, it’s not that much fun to watch her self-imposed suffering.

But the movie is a clear reminder, especially for those of us in midlife, that good deeds aren’t only those works performed outside the home. That absolution by others is hollow unless we’ve first forgiven ourselves. That children forging paths different from our own doesn’t mean they’re failures. That hypocrisy and lying are plenty sinful sometimes.

“The Perfect Family” is about what matters most. We forget too often, assuming we’ve been wise enough to figure it out in the first place. The film is poignant fare for women looking back over the choices they’ve made, couples who’ve spent too little time talking with each other and folks who prefer judging others’ families over tending their own.

Click here to learn more.

— Lynn

Note: “High” imagines the life of a young gay addict and the no-nonsense nun who works to rehabilitate him. Click here to learn more about September’s Recovery Month campaign from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Coming up: A weekend of new plays in Scottsdale

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