Manhattan matron struggles to keep the family peace when her wildly divergent twin daughters are invited to a debutante ball.
With blueblood origins—if not inclinations—Olympia Crawford Rubenstein is sweetly nostalgic when she receives an invitation for her 18-year-old twins Veronica and Virginia to attend New York’s toniest coming-out ball. A former debutante herself, but now a busy lawyer with a five-year-old son by her adoring second husband, Harry, Olympia knows that the days of rich girls finding suitable husbands at such society events are long over. Still, she thinks it would be a nice opportunity for the girls. Boy-and-shopping-crazed Virginia agrees, and she is overjoyed at the idea of wearing a white dress to the fancy party. Her more serious left-leaning sister, however, thinks the whole ritual is ridiculous and refuses to go. Olympia’s ex-husband, Chauncey, a polo-playing blowhard, not only insists that his daughters make their debut, but he even threatens to cut off their college tuition unless they both participate, unfairly pitting the sisters against each other. Harry, an otherwise mensch of a judge, wants nothing to do with the waspy tradition, believing it to be elitist and anti-Semitic. That is why he is disappointed when his Holocaust-survivor mom Frieda, thinking it will be great fun, agrees to go as a family guest. Olympia is left stuck in the middle, and needless to say, additional stresses, such as a punk-rock escort, an ill-advised tattoo and an unexpected bout of chicken pox nearly derail her careful attempts to make the evening work. And then there is Olympia’s dutiful eldest son Charlie, a college senior, who, it is repeatedly noted, seems preoccupied and sad. What ever could be wrong with the boy? Hint: Coming out is not just for debs anymore! Fortunately, compromises are made and family bonds prevail in Steel’s short and syrupy latest (The House, 2006, etc.).
A slight confection that spares no heartwarming family cliché, but one that acknowledges the unique challenges of today’s mixed families.