‘Modern Family’ Review: “Best Men”
Hide the vodka! Elizabeth Banks returns as Sal on tonight's 'Modern Family,' and she's got a big surprise. Also, Manny gets provocative in art class, Gloria struggles with the nanny, and Phil tries to help Luke with a date.
One of the ongoing themes throughout 'Modern Family' is finding that place where you can let go of your kids and let them make their own decisions, but still maintain your role as a caring parent. It's a theme many parents relate to -- how loose do you keep the reigns so your kids can learn and grow through their own experiences?
And does anyone ever truly grow up? Not so much for Cam and Mitch's friend Sal (Banks), who re-appears with exciting news that she's getting married in a week. But the impetuous lady is terrified by her hasty decision and starts making out with a bartender on the night of her vows. (Side note: this seems to be the same bar set they use on 'New Girl.') To go along with the themes of the episode, Sal becomes like a surrogate child to Cam and Mitch, as they struggle to figure out how best to comfort and support her, and maybe push her in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Claire thinks Hayley might be entering the phase of childhood where she's ready to reconnect with her mom, inspiring Claire to hilariously regress, but neither of them are prepared for getting the cold shoulder treatment from Alex. As it turns out, Alex is playing cello and singing in a pretty awesome little band. We've watched Alex emerge from dorky tween to confident teenager, and it's a path that has been more pronounced this season. It's great to see how the tables are turned on Hayley and Claire, but what I love even more is the way the show highlights that vague moment when an older sibling becomes too old to be cool. There's always a divide between the older and younger siblings -- one sibling is always either too young or old to hang out with, but the two can sometimes bond over shared feelings or resentments. 'Modern Family' manages to find the right balance this week between reflecting real life and refracting it for comedy when it focuses on the Dunphy women.
Phil also gets some great laughs in tonight when he helps Luke land a date with a cute girl, and while you, like myself, probably assumed it would be Luke getting into some trouble, "Best Men" subverts expectation by sticking Phil with the mother of Luke's date. The sad, clingy divorcee is a bit of a tired cliche, and one that seems to fight against all the jokes Ty Burrell works so hard to land. While he definitely succeeds in bringing out the humor in yet another instance where Phil is in an awkward situation full of misunderstandings, the mother almost kills it.
As for the Jay and Gloria household, things are pretty tricky -- Gloria is struggling to give up her maternal powers to the new nanny, while Jay is struggling with Gloria's need to breast feed in front of strangers. The latter of which leads them both to believe that Manny is creating some rather provocative nude art at school because of his carefree mother, but neither parent realizes until it's too late that his art is inspired by the beautiful young nanny, Dahlia. It's the type of story we've come to expect from Manny, whose maturity so often clashes with his naivete, but it works in the service of letting Gloria work out her own issues with motherhood -- she can tend to Manny's broken heart while the nanny tends to baby Joe.
And what about that end credits bit, huh? I know a lot of people take issue with the young actress playing Lily, but she really proves her worth this week with that fantastic and very, very funny scene with Elizabeth Banks at the end. Her mannerisms and cadence are impeccable for an actress so young, and I think it goes a long way to disproving the theory that child actors can hardly be called such because they have little understanding of what they are doing, nor do they have enough control over themselves. Just watch that scene again and tell me that little girl has no idea how to act. She totally nails it, and you can see a glimpse of Banks' amusement at how great she is, too.