director Ted Demme
Somewhere recently, I was reading a list of the best films “you haven’t seen” of the last 25 years and made note of a handful of the films that I hadn’t seen that I had been meaning to. The Ref was a film that I recall being interested in when it came out, and it’s certainly one that I’d heard good things about. In fact, it also was one that was personally recommended to me by a friend. I’ve had lots of reasons to watch it but until now hadn’t queued it up.
Directed by the late Ted Demme and starring Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey, it’s a nastygram for the holidays about a husband and wife (Spacey and Davis) who have grown to despise each other, and who find themselves kidnap victims of armed burglar Leary, who is on the run when a robbery goes South. It’s both very of its time and also oddly something that needs little if any updating to make it contemporary.
It’s all about the fighting, bickering, and insults. And Leary winds up playing tough-love therapist to the couple that could blow out an average marriage counselor.
And it’s funny. It’s pretty good. One of the best of the past 25 years? Depends on how long your list is.
What is shocking is that the film is 18 years old. I remember when two decades ago seemed like an unimaginable spectrum of generations and time in which the world was astoundingly, unequivocally foreign, ancient, and different. All that said, The Ref does have that 1990’s middle America fuzzy dysfunctionality that has become so much more the norm of family depictions. The bottom line…it made me feel old.