The Family Man (2009)

by Elinor Lipman

The Family Man is another of Elinor Lipman’s superb comedies of manners. A retired gay lawyer, Henry, seizes a chance to rebond with the adopted daughter, Thalia, whom he didn’t fight for when her mother, Denise, divorced him. Denise wants to mend her estranged relationship with Thalia and get back into Henry’s life. Denise tries to fix up Henry with a friend, Todd. Thalia agrees to pose as the girlfriend of a socially awkward actor, Leif, to rehab his image.

These intertwined plots set up Lipman’s typically humorous interactions of characters who have problems and flaws but are redeemable. Her sure ear for how people speak and sure grasp of the human heart are much in evidence. Henry and Thalia are especially endearing. Henry, gentle, kind, and unfailingly curious, is the type of man straight women would want as a friend and perceptive gay men would want as a partner. Thalia is charming, frank, and unpretentious.

Elinor Lipman has been called a modern-day Jane Austen. That’s true to an extent, but she isn’t as serious as Austen. Her people aren’t introspective. But when you’re in the mood for a well-written comedy, she’s hard to beat.


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