Making the Grades
"Once a parent, always a parent" may be a true adage but when your 35-year-old offspring is still underfoot, it's time to hire a professional.
That's where Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes in.
She's an "interventionist" who helps adult children overcome their failure to launch. With a self-developed, AA-like program, she builds a man's confidence by pretending to fall in love with him. Working through the steps of meeting his friends, discovering his interests, and stroking his ego, she prepares the gullible slacker to pack his bags. If the guy stays on track, he is out of his parent's home in no time.
Although it feels a little deceitful, Al (Terry Bradshaw) and Sue (Kathy Bates) are ready to do just about anything to get their son Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) and his steady stream of women out of the upstairs bedroom. After their friends use Paula's specialized skills to launch their boy, Tripp's parents decide to engage her services.
Following a staged first encounter in a furniture store, the consultant and her new, unsuspecting client are off and away. But when Tripp's progress stalls a few weeks later and he tries to dump her before his send off, Paula breaks her cardinal rule about sleeping with a client.
Cardinal rule or not, detailed sexual comments and the suggestion of frequent, casual relationships are a mainstay of the script. Paula's caustic (and seemingly alcoholic) roommate Kit (Zooey Deschanel) questions the wisdom of her physical affair with Tripp. Yet Kit is equally quick to become involved when Tripp's nerdy, live-at-home buddy Ace (Justin Bartha) makes a move on her.
Unfortunately much of the movie's humor is built on those intimate interactions as well as repeated shots of Al's exposed buttocks. Another storyline played for laughs is Kit's growing annoyance with a mockingbird outside her window. Unable to purchase a shotgun from the sporting store, Kit persuades Ace to help her shoot the bird with a BB gun.
Implying there's an epidemic of grown-up freeloaders, the film does raise some timely topics about the transition both parents and kids face when it's comes to fly the coop. While Sue seems anxious to have her son leave, her constant coddling of him in their upper-middle class manor would make any self-indulgent man happy to stay in the nest. Tripp also appears equally content to wile away his adulthood playing video games and extreme sports rather than take on commitment.
While these discussion starters keep the movie from completely failing to launch, the frequent profanities, heavy alcohol use and the irresponsible sexual behaviors will trip most families up long before they make it to the ticket office.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Failure to Launch.
Although Al and Sue are anxious to have Tripp out of the house, what opposing emotions does Sue experience at his leaving? What are her concerns? What relationship challenges might couples face when their last child leaves home and they become empty nesters?
How did Sue’s pampering hamper Tripp’s motivation to leave home? What responsibilities do you think parents should give older children who still live at home?
What effects could Tripp’s sexual behavior have on his future relationship with Paula? What consequences for his actions are not shown?