Most of the US$55 million [S$79.4 million] spent on this movie must have gone to pay Academy Award winner Russell Crowe, Les Misérables actress Amanda Seyfried and possibly even veteran actress Jane Fonda.

Italian director Gabriele Muccino’s earlier Hollywood films, The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds also relied on star power the likes of Will Smith for their success, the former having taken in US$307.1 million in the global box office, according to IMDB.

In the case of The Pursuit of Happyness audiences were also possibly drawn by the inspiring rags-to-insane riches true story of stockbroker Christopher Gardner on which the 2006 movie was based.

More money and time, perhaps, should have been spent on improving the non-linear narrative in Fathers and Daughters by newbie scriptwriter Brad Desch, or possibly giving it more airtime to fully flesh out the characters and subplots.

The story arcs are dated 1989 and 2016. When we begin in New York, we’re introduced to Jake Davis (Crowe), a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who inadvertently kills his wife in a car crash as he’s driving, due to their arguing about her cheating on him. Jake survives but sustains massive head injuries that result in seizures and mental illness. While receiving treatment, he leaves his bright-eyed 5-year-old daughter Katie (Kylie Rogers) in the care of his late wife’s sister (Diane Kruger) and her wealthy husband (Bruce Greenwood).


When Jake returns home, the not-quite-recovered writer must face an uphill struggle to make a living, as well as a custody battle for Katie with his in-laws whom he had made her guardians.

Pros that they are, Crowe and Rogers easily portray a convincing and strong parent-child relationship with each other, especially through simple familial moments like bedtime stories and homemade meals, plus cheesy nicknames for her like “Potato Chip” in various scenes. This strikes another resemblance to onscreen father-daughter pair portrayed by Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning in 2001’s I am Sam.

But what’s even more striking is the acting ability of 11-year-old Rogers which is on par with her adult counterparts. Some parts, corny as they are, are guaranteed to wring a tear from you, like making young Katie pinky promise her Dad to stay alive. Still, there’s nothing like the child-like innocence and teary-eyed moments from Rogers to make us marvel at her abilities in front of the camera. Then again, her role in this movie is already the 20th acting credit she’s had in a variety of TV, movie and short film roles, so she’s no novice.


The next half of the plot fast-forwards 26 years later, Katie (now played by Seyfried) is a social worker, specializing in helping young children. Unfortunately, a pivotal traumatic event in her childhood, which is only revealed at the end of the movie, has hardened her heart and made it difficult for her to love, thus she engages in a habit of casual sex to rid that void in her life.

It’s 2016, but there’s still content that gives feminists a reason to snap. It seems all Katie needs in order to solve the emotional meltdowns stemming from her past is a man. In this case, he happens to be Cameron (Aaron Paul), who is another writer and, can you believe, fanboy of her father. Some other scenes also hint at sexism: when Katie’s Aunt, after being cheated on by her husband, tells her: “Men can survive without love, but not us women.”


Nonetheless, Desch’s maiden Hollywood screenplay was still a decent attempt to combine different storylines of relationships between father-daughter, boy-girl, and patient-social worker into one film, but there’s room for improvement. Perhaps Jake’s slew of mental illnesses can be explored further, than through his seizures.

All told, despite the fine acting from the A-list cast, there isn’t enough in this movie to draw a lot of audiences to buy tickets.


Rating: ★★★☆☆



Release Date:           7 Jan

Runtime:                   116 Minutes

Language:                 English

Rating:                       NC16

Genre:                        Drama

Director:                    Gabriele Muccino

Cast:                          Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, Kylie Rogers, Bruce Greenwood, Diana Kruger


(Photos courtesy of Shaw Organisation)