Famous for playing TV’s Detective Columbo, Falk has, in fact, been making movies, since “Robin & the Seven Hoodsa” (1964), including a few classics like “The In-Laws,” (1979) and John Cassavetes “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974).
With a script written by co-star Paul Reiser, “Folk’s” offers Falk a chance to dominate the screen in a tour de force performance as still vigorous grandfather Sam Kleinman who, after a lifetime of marriage, arrives at the home of son Ben (Reiser) announcing that wife Muriel (Olympia Dukakis) has left him for places unknown. Because Ben is considering a move to the country, he uses a house-hunting trip as an opportunity to do some long-delayed bonding with dear old Dad.
However, the trip also becomes a springboard for Ben to attack his father in a series of character assassination tirades. It seems that the supposedly loving son has kept an ancient letter that Mom once wrote to Sam, but never delivered. The letter is highly critical of her hubby and his workaholic ways.
Sam counters that while he worked to maintain his business, he was always loyal to Muriel and loved her in his own way. None of this is good enough for Ben, who continues his attack to the point that a mother-daughter pickup team are so turned off that they drop their attempt to seduce the Kleinmen’s.
What’s surprising is that for a son who claims to be concerned about his parents, Ben knows very little about them. He doesn’t realize that Dad is a near-professional pool player, until Sam beats the daylights out of a hotshot hustler at an upstate bar. And the sanctimonious son doesn’t realize that the reason why Mom is upset has nothing to do with Dad.
While Reiser hasn’t written a perfect script nor provided a performance to complement his star, Falk is still a wonder and worthy of Oscar consideration. His scenes at the pool table or simply contemplating the stars are sad and exciting simultaneously. Dukakis steals a couple of episodes at the film’s finale, but for the most part, it’s a Falk film.
Fans of the famous actor shouldn’t wait for the DVD. Unfortunately, “The Thing About My Folk’s” is only playing in limited release. So catch it if you can.