A lot has been made in recent years (or decades) about the façade of perfection, especially when it comes to the empty, plasticine morality of American suburbia. Movies as disparate as American Beauty and Mean Girls have all been made to prove one singular point: that the idyllic America is anything but.
The same forces are at work in The Playroom, a darkly cheery drama about a family that seems to have it all. Set in the 1970s, the film is really two stories in one: the first happens in the main rooms of a stately suburban home where the adults are being entertained by gin and gossip; the second (and more revelatory one) happens in the attic of the same house (commonly known as ‘the playroom’) where the children of the house are gathered to share stories and secrets that they should not know. The biggest secret, of course, is that their lives are lies.
The father gets drunk; the mother kisses another man; a daughter loses her virginity; a son falls from the roof of the house; all of this on the day that Patty Hearst is kidnapped. As Alanis Morissette would say, “Isn’t it ironic?”
The movie works well because of its stellar performances. It kind of falters in certain moments that go a bit over the top, but the whole is greater than any deficient parts. Definitely worth checking out if you can catch it in your area.