Netflix’s ‘Like Father’ sidesteps melodrama in favor of quieter, honest moments

Netflix/YouTube

Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer work out their issues.

Netflix‘s Like Father kicks off with an emotional 1-2 punch for its protagonist Rachel.

It’s her wedding day and she’s set to walk down the aisle but not before finishing an important work call. Moments later, her husband-not-to-be leaves her at the altar. Then Rachel looks into the crowd and spots the father she hasn’t seen since she was 6 years old trying to sneak out.

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While Rachel’s relationship with her fiance is toast, there’s a flicker of hope left with her dad. A night of heavy drinking follows and before you can say “plot contrivance,” the two are off on Rachel’s honeymoon cruise.

Once the setup is out of the way, Like Father settles into a nice rhythm.

Like Father Kelsey Grammer Netflix Netflix/YouTube

The film is anchored by Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer as the estranged daughter-daddy duo of Rachel and Harry. Bell plays Rachel with the same hardened, world-weary veneer she brought to Veronica Mars. Rachel is focused and strong, and she’s a workaholic. So her moments of vulnerability stand out. Grammer is a nice surprise. Or rather, Harry is a surprise. You’d expect him to be gruff and hard to get along with. But Grammer gives Harry a warmth that is laced with sadness. Despite being apart for so long, the echoes between Rachel and Harry are obvious. So when Harry, observing Rachel from afar, laments his daughter is “a bit of an asshole,” it stings more than the average throwaway quip.

While the plot can feel a bit formulaic at times, the movie eschews most of the farcical set-pieces that populate similar films. Those things come up because there are only so many cruise ship activities, but it’s always in service of the characters. It’s not just jokes. That is a testament to writer and director Lauren Miller Rogen, who keeps the focus tightly on Rachel and Harry. She favors longer shots that allow her actors to do what they do best. For a first-time director, her trust in the cast and script is a pleasant surprise. By the time the film goes for a big movie moment, it has earned the indulgence.

Kristen Bell Netflix Like Father Netflix/YouTube

Like Father makes a good pairing with Kodachrome, another Netflix film. Both movies are about estranged parent-child relationships. Kodachrome plays things a little heavy, whereas Like Father opts for a lighter touch. That lightness works for Like Father. The movie sidesteps melodrama in favor of quieter, honest moments.

As you scroll through Netflix for something to watch, Like Father is a fine choice.

Still not sure what to watch on Netflix? Here are our guides for the absolute best movies on Netflix, must-see Netflix original series and movies, and the comedy specials guaranteed to make you laugh.

Eddie Strait

Eddie Strait

Eddie Strait is a member of the Austin Film Critic Association. His reviews focus primarily on streaming entertainment, with an emphasis on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other on-demand services.