Kathleen Turner is getting rave reviews for her staring role in the new comedy "The Perfect Family." The film tells the tale of a Catholic housewife nominated for her parish's coveted Catholic Woman of the Year award, yet to clinch the prize she must show off her 'perfect family,' which includes a lesbian daughter and a son whose marriage is falling apart.
While the film follows her trying to resolve this conflicting love of her church and her family, the film's Catholic setting has drawn the predictable outrage from The Catholic League's Bill Donahue who says it 'smacks Catholicism.'
HuffPost Senior Religion Editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush spoke with Turner on the phone about the film and the Catholic character she plays.
Tell me about your character Eileen in "The Perfect Family." Was this Catholic woman someone whom you liked?
When I first got this script I asked myself, like I always do, why do I want to do this movie? And when I looked at the character Eileen I could see that this is a good woman, not judgmental, not intolerant, trying to live by this code of rules. But she has this conflict in her faith and her family.
We learn in the film that she got pregnant in high school. She explains to her daughter, “I didn’t even know how to drive a car.” And then shortly after that, she had another child. And then her husband was drinking heavily and was unfaithful to her. During this time the church gave her comfort and affirmation that she was doing the right thing, that whatever happened, God was on her side.
The church was the only refuge she found before her husband got sober and her life found balance again. Then her daughter comes out at a lesbian and decides marrying her long-time partner and have a child. All of this is incomprehensible and what you see in the film is Eileen’s bewilderment. She is trying to make sense of how this person who is flesh of her flesh and blood of her blood is so different.
Isn’t that the story of a lot of people who are trying to come to grips with the changing world and changing expectations?
Of course it is. The title, ‘The Perfect Family,’ is meant to make people say, “What, there is such a thing?” Of course there's not, but, oh, people try.
I have a rock bottom belief about the people of this country that given a situation, we will do the right thing. At the heart, we know that there is a right and wrong. We are good people, dammit. I don’t care what divisions are imposed or accepted, there is right and wrong. And at heart, we know this.
There is a sympathetic Catholic priest as well, isn't there?
There is a Priest, Father Joe, who performs the wedding ceremony for the lesbian daughter.
So maybe it isn’t so much that it is anti-Catholic, but it is actually showing there are many different people and opinions in the faith.
It’s sort of like we know that 93 percent of all Catholic women practice contraception and yet the Catholic Church says that is not allowed. We know that in real world there is tolerance and acceptance at every level.
Not to mention the high support of Catholics for gay marriage.
Oh, I didn’t know that.
There is a lot of good charity work that happens in Catholic churches. Your character is also involved in that.
Oh, absolutely. She completely immerses herself in it. That is her daily schedule, it is the food she delivers, visiting the sick, filling in for people who need help, that’s what she does all day long. All through the organization of the church. And that’s terrific.
When you hear people saying the film is bashing Catholics what is your response?
Well, my first response is: go see it. Which inherently means, judge for yourself.
The Perfect Family is in select theaters and On Demand.