In this droll comedy of manners, sparks fly over a prospective union of two very different conservative families.
When Amanda Worthington brings her latest boyfriend du jour, Brian Grace, home from college, her wealthy, Republican parents, Chuck and Libby, figure that her relationship with the earnest, hunky football player won’t last long. However, a tizzy erupts when Amanda announces that she’s pregnant and plans to marry Brian the next day. Brian is also a Republican, but to the worldly, fashionable, and socially liberal Worthingtons, he’s the wrong kind—a devout Christian who insists that abortion is out of the question and marriage is mandatory. Even worse, he comes from a down-at-the-heels, working-class family. As Chuck strategizes a way to use his money to quash both the wedding and the pregnancy, Libby reels at her ruined plans to make Amanda into an accomplished doctor. The arrival of Brian’s parents intensifies the clash: the Worthingtons are appalled by the Graces’ dowdy clothes, untoned physiques, zealous religiosity, and concealed firearm; the Graces, meanwhile, are scandalized by the Worthingtons’ arctic-white décor, nude statuary, gay chef, and disdain for biblical strictures. As the two families learn more about what divides them, their awkwardness shades toward open enmity—just in time for dinner. Schiff has adapted her novel from her play of the same name, and this fact shows in a certain staginess: the story takes place in a single afternoon and location, the dialogue telegraphs attitudes in efficient shorthand (“do you think he’s one of those…one of those Christians?”), the political schema is somewhat self-conscious, and the characters are stark enough to be legible from the back row. However, Schiff fleshes out these caricatures with plausible interior lives and unexpected nuances; Libby emerges as more than the shallow shopaholic she initially seems to be, and the Graces turn out to be at least as cosmopolitan and socially fluent as the Worthingtons, in their own way. Overall, Schiff’s well-paced prose style combines whip-smart repartée with a sharp, funny knack for social observation, and she manages to infuse psychological depth and emotional resonance into the kulturkampf.
A somewhat contrived but entertaining satire on the different ways of being right.