A Family Thing is an unusual comedy-drama that focuses on racial divisions and
family relations. Robert Duvall is Earl, a stubborn good old boy from Arkansas. When his
momma dies, she reveals that he isn't her son. Earl was the result of an illicit relationship
between his father and their black housekeeper. She also informs Earl that he has a half-brother,
named Ray (James Earl Jones). Upon hearing the news, Earl travels to Chicago to meet
his brother, and come to grips with his life and the lie he believed for sixty years. Ray
isn't too thrilled that Earl has come a-calling, having blamed Earl and his father for his
mother's death (she died in childbirth having Earl). In the days which follow, Ray and Earl
get to know and understand each other, and confront each other's racism.
The proceedings aren't all as serious as that sounds...there's a good dose of humor in
A Family Thing, most brought on board by Ray and Earl's blind old Aunt T. (prominently
featured in the trailers). Duvall and Jones deliver the worthy performances they are known
for. The movie's main misfire is its divergence onto the story of Ray's son
Victor and his failed marriage and his failed dreams. When Jones and Duvall have
center stage, though, the film is a pure delight.
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