Failure to Launch
starring Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates
written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember
directed by Tom Dey
35-year old Tripp is still living at home with his parents. He sees nothing wrong with this and is accustomed to the convenience of his mother doing his laundry and serving him pancake breakfasts every morning. But his parents want him gone, so they hire a professional “interventionist” to pose as his girlfriend in hopes of luring him away from the nest (and“launching” him into the world as an independent adult). It’s a good comedy with good performances by Matthew McConaughey, Kathy Bates, and especially Zooey Deschanel.
The movie speaks to me in a special way because I have a 38-year-old younger brother still living at home with my widowed mother. But I still disagree with the premise. I mean, the idea that it is normal and naturally inevitable for children to leave the nest, leave mother and father’s home and set up their own home is far from universal, is more than a little peculiarly American, and of moot credibility. It is wrapped up with Western ideas of individuality, personhood, and Nature. But saying so to many North Americans would most likely be met with incredulous stares, marginalization at parties, and eventual dismissal. I know, because I have already had exactly this conversation with a sister-in-law in Canada and received just that expression.
I think moving out of the parents’ home is attributable to a number of things that need to converge simultaneously - will and necessity being the most important. In Japan, where I live, multi-generational households are still common. Many adult Japanese continue living at home. Caring for the aged parents, or continuing the family business is a duty that falls to the eldest son, or the eldest daughter (such as my wife) if there is no son. When these eldest children marry they bring their spouses into the
parents’ home, and tales of mother vs. daughter-in-law conflict are legion.
In America this live at home behavior is considered a pathology and there is even a name for it. But then, Americans like to do that, make everything an object of therapy, so I am naturally suspicious.
Matthew McConaughey puts in a good performance as a man yet to completely grow up, spending his leisure in sports rather than in the business of his own household and family. It reminds me of my brother, who is pretty much like that.