As They Made Us – dysfunctional family drama, staring Candice Bergen and Dustin Hoffman
As They Made Us follows Abigail (Dianna Agron), a divorced mother of two, who is struggling to find sanity in her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father, Eugene (Dustin Hoffman), has a degenerative condition that he and his wife, Barbara (Candice Bergen), refuse to accept. Her brother Nathan (Simon Helberg) has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail attempts to mend her complicated family before it’s too late.
Moving between present-day and flashbacks to a chaotic and confusing childhood, Abigail juggles parenting her young sons with her annoyingly competent ex-husband Peter (Weber) and trying to land a cover story at the news magazine she works for. Barbara barely gives Abigail a moment of peace, calling her to clean up messes every time Eugene falls or when a nurse sneaks him weed gummy bears against her wishes. Barbara’s intrusiveness proves amusing to Abigail’s crush, her landscaper Jay (Chu Cary), but it’s yet another part of Abigail’s life which she finds unable to disentangle her family’s insanity.
Navigating Eugene’s degenerative condition and Barbara’s manic hostility is alternately hilarious and heartbreakingly cringe-worthy. Family struggles range from fights over birthday cake and wheelchair mechanical snafus, to Barbara’s bizarre behavior at doctor’s appointments. Things come to a head when Nathan agrees to visit Eugene, but only if Barbara isn’t present. Barbara begrudgingly agrees to let them have their reunion, and Nathan and Eugene’s visit is bittersweet. However, Barbara cannot resist spoiling Abigail’s joy, leaving Abigail to once again choose between her comfort and that of her mother. Eugene’s health worsens and with his passing, Nathan and Abigail begin to repair their relationship and, in turn, their family.
This is a wonderful film, which could also very well be the swan song of sorts for legendary actors, Candace Bergen and Dustin Hoffman, each pulling off superb roles and bickering husband and wife. The story follows the escapades and antics of an aging couple and their two adult children. Bergen rocks her role as the manic, controlling mother Barbara, who has always been by her husband Eugene’s side through thick and thin. Flashback scenes show that it wasn’t always easy, as her husband (Hoffman) had a mean streak in him throughout their marriage, also controlling and abusive, both mentally and physically to both her and the kids.
Now Eugene is reaching the end of his life, and Barbara realizes she is going to be alone. Distraught yes disgruntled, she’s always relying on her daughter Abigail, to the point of mental abuse. Abigail must contend with raising her own two children on her own, which Barbara blames her for divorcing her husband in the first place. Barbara’s son has not been in contact with the family for several years, until Abigail let’s him know his father is dying, and now would be the time to see him again if he wanted to. It’s a very bittersweet sad, yet comical at times, story of a dysfunctional family that many will be able to relate to in some way or another. Dianna Agron also plays an outstanding role as Abigail, carrying the film forward as equally as her fellow venerable co-stars.
Mayim Bialik’s (Big Bang Theory) feature debut opens in theaters and on VOD on April 8. Available from Quiver Distribution.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.