Some locations are so crucial to a production that they almost function as a plot point. Such is the case with the residence that house flippers Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) purchase at the beginning of the 2018 comedy “Instant Family” (streaming now on both Hulu and Amazon Prime). The film’s opening sees the couple walking through the property, which is in a state of disrepair, discussing plans to fix it up for Ellie’s sister, Kim (Allyn Rachel), and her husband, Russ (Tom Segura), and the rest of the movie is dedicated to both their renovation of the dwelling and their journey bringing three children into their home via foster care.
Based on screenwriter/director Sean Anders’ experience of adopting his own three children, the house, in its various stages of construction, serves as a throughline for the heartwarming tale, as well as an emblem of the Wagners’ evolution as a family. At one point, Pete even compares fostering to renovating a home. After meeting two veteran adoptive parents at a seminar, he rather lumberingly tells Ellie, “This is what we do. We see potential in things, we fix them up, right? Like they did. I mean they find this kid in a state of disrepair. They give her a new coat of paint, scrape off her emotional popcorn ceiling, install some countertops in the form of, like, love and self-esteem or whatever. Look I’m not saying she’s a house . . . but I think we’re perfect for this.” So it is only fitting that Anders chose to have a residence undergo the transformation process along with the couple onscreen. So significant is the house’s metamorphosis that (spoiler!) Pete and Ellie wind up moving there at the end of the film upon formally adopting their children.
Producers landed on the perfect property to represent the rehabbed home. Said to be in Northern California’s fictional Terrance County (so named in honor of Anders’ father), the charming dwelling can actually be found in Atlanta, Georgia.