The Family Man (2000)

(On Cable TV, May 2015)  I may be overthinking this film, but there’s an element in The Family Man that pushes this so-called feel-good film straight into existential horror, and I can’t shake it off.  This is, in simplest terms, a film about a successful businessman revisiting his life had things gone differently.  So, rather than keep haunting the expensive apartments and boardrooms of Manhattan as a single man, he is magically spirited to an alternate suburban existence, with wife and kids and a somewhat dreary job as a tire salesman.  He does, as expected, learn a powerful lesson in time for the end.  Except that by that time, he has befriended a number of interesting people, including his adorable daughter who understands his parallel-life predicament and is delighted when her “daddy is back” late in the story.  So far so-good so-expected so-enjoyable except for the ending, in which our businessman becomes again his businessman self and goes back to his ex-girlfriend to rekindle an old romance and… we realize that the adorable daughter (and siblings) has been erased from existence.  Ugh.  I don’t expect most people to have this gut-shot reaction: The Family Man is, after all, built as a solidly mainstream comedy, as predictable as it is safe.  I don’t think that viewers are supposed to probe all that deeply into it, or do anything but laugh at Nicolas Cage’s antics as he fumbles around with Tea Leoni.  Still… for a film that’s supposed to be unobjectionable Christmas family comedy, I do have a significant objection.

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