PALM SPRINGS SHORTFEST 2023 REVIEW! Written and directed by Andrew Fitzgerald, The Family Circus is set during Christmas time. Paul (Blake Dang) wrecks his car while under the influence before going home to sleep it off. Paul is only one DIU away from serious jail time, and it throws his brother, Johnny (Michael Nguyen Manceau), father (Scott Subiono), and mother (Elyse Dinh) into a frenzy trying to find a way to keep Paul out of prison. The verging-on dysfunctional family hatches a scheme to convince the officer at the scene (Michael Ironside) that Johnny was driving during the accident. Lies and tension spiral out of control when the cop accompanies Johnny and his father to their house. Let “the circus” begin.
The short captures you from scene one with its frenetic pace and sharp jazzy soundtrack. Fitzgerald does not waste a second of the under-twenty-minute runtime, magnifying tension at every turn but never sacrificing the constant “cool factor” on display throughout. Like the soundtrack and shot placement, the film weaves through genres, giving thrilling, suspenseful, funny, offbeat, and dramatic looks all during the holidays.
“…hatches a scheme to convince the officer at the scene that Johnny was driving…”
Ironside does a phenomenal job as a problematic but keen police officer, subtly questioning the family as Paul sleeps upstairs like a timebomb waiting to blow the entire plan to pieces. The actor is strong in the role. In fact, all the performances through The Family Circus serve the distinct style of this genre-mixing short film.
For under twenty minutes, The Family Circus accomplishes a lot. It’s exciting, evocative, and yet quirky all the same. Some of the more subtle moments take a few views to catch, but they do little to detract from the overall narrative of this comedy thriller. Or is it a nail-biting Christmas movie? Maybe it’s a quirky family drama? Either way, Fitzgerald subverts expectations well. The performers make eating pie at the dinner table the most suspenseful way to get laughs. And above all, the film makes you want to watch more shorts or make one of your own; it’s just that cool.
"…makes you want to watch more shorts or make one of your own..."