In her directorial debut, Laura Steinel uses Juggalo subculture as inspiration for her comedy “Family,” which serves as a double coming-of-age tale for workaholic mess Kate (Taylor Schilling) and her awkward pre-teen niece, Maddie (Bryn Vale). As her brother (Eric Eidelstein) and sister-in-law (Allison Tolman) rush out of town to care for an ailing relative, Kate is enlisted to care for Maddie, a task the self-involved career woman is uniquely ill-equipped to perform.
But throughout the chaos, this odd couple discover a kinship in their shared struggle as social outcasts. Weird Maddie doesn’t fit in and she’s tired of forcing it, while prickly Kate has long given up on fitting in, mostly for the worse.
Steinel teases us with an opening sequence showing us where the film ends up — the most welcoming place for freaks and outsiders, which is, of course, the sprawling annual festival for fans of the Insane Clown Posse, the Gathering of the Juggalos. The clown makeup is intimidating, but the community bond is tight. We spend the rest of the film waiting to fulfill that storyline.
But along the way, this charming, shaggy story of embracing oneself to authentically connect with others is peppered with appealing performances from Brian Tyree Henry and Kate McKinnon, and a truly bravura turn by Schilling as a woman frazzled to her wits’ end. That it manages a happy ending is truly, as Shaggy 2 Dope would say, a miracle.
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Rated: R, for language, some sexual content and drug use.
Playing: AMC Century City