Film Review: Family Squares

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Stephanie Laing | CAST: Ann Dowd, Elsie Fisher, Judy Greer, Billy Magnussen, Margo Martindale, Sam Richardson, Timothy Simons, Casey Wilson, June Squibb, Henry Winkler, Zoë Chao
SPECS: R | 99 min. | Comedy drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie

The appropriately named Family Squares is the latest comedy to come out of the pandemic stage of content creation and, with it’s A-list ensemble, is able to avoid zoom fatigue.

The Worths are a dysfunctional family who, due to the current pandemic, are isolated from each other during a tragic time–the passing of their beloved matriarch, Grandma Mabel (June Squibb, Nebraska). Multi-generational households come together virtually to share their grief and grievances but when a posthumous video from Mable unearths long buried family secrets, mayhem ensues. Now the family has to find a way to come together–while staying apart.

There have been numerous films shoot via Zoom with some faring better than others. Family Squares lies somewhere in between. The plot is ripe for dramedy with several enjoyable quips about sibling jealousy and parentally hovering but the jokes about tech issues with virtual chatting, which may have seemed fresh at the time, now come across as stale as we complete the second year of the pandemic.

Aside from an occasional look at each character’s life away from their computer, the film is primarily presented through the family’s on-screen computer squares. It can be difficult for actors to create believable chemistry with each other in this format, and a believable connection is essential for film which centers its storyline around family bonds. Family Squares falls short a bit in this area but is ultimately saved by its cast.

Writer-director Stephanie Laing and her team have assembled one of the best ensembles in years, casting Hollywood veterans alongside notable up-and-comers, including Ann Dowd (Hereditary), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Judy Greer (Buffaloed), Billy Magnussen (No Time To Die), Margo Martindale (August: Osage County), Sam Richardson (Werewolves Within), Timothy Simons (TV’s VEEP), Casey Wilson (TV’s The Shrink Next Door), Zoë Chao (Long Weekend), Jessica Miesel (TV’s The Resident) and Henry Winkler (TV’s Barry). Each performer squeezes all that comedic and emotional juice that can be drawn from the inherently impersonal Zoom format.

One wonders what enjoyably crazy moments could have come out of Family Squares had it been able to film in person. That said, this zoom iteration is worth the watch just for the joy of seeing Greer, Dowd, Martindale and Richardson all one square.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at