Wednesday, February 11, 2009


CHICK FLICK ETIQUETTE TIP: Ladies, when losing your virginity, be sure your little sister isn’t sauced.


A cheerless Cher, Winnie Sticky Fingers, Sunday School Wednesday, poon-struck Eddie Valiant, a mopey Jake Ryan, chugga-boots, Quark the Auteur, a toe-tappin’ soundtrack, and the baffling absence of Aquaman.

More details here.


1963. Mrs. Flax (Cher) is a single mother who drags her confused teen daughter Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and talented swimmer daughter Kate (Christina Ricci) from town to town after a string of failed relationships to avoid the stigma of being labeled the town slut. Mrs. Flax is a clever baker of fun-shaped pastries and cakes, but she never uses this God-given talent to pursue a career or open a shop. She just hops from menial job to menial job, hoping to find a man and maybe a little fun. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t worked out well as she consistently finds unavailable or hopeless men. Miserable Charlotte rebels against Mom and her Jewish heritage and becomes obsessed with becoming a Catholic nun, complete with riddled guilt. Equally obsessed is adorable Kate and her penchant for swimming and holding her breath underwater for long periods of time. Mrs. Flax and Charlotte share a volatile relationship stemming from the loss of Char’s father, Mom’s uncommunicative and abrasive nature, and their unstable home life. Things start to change when they arrive in a Massachusetts town and meet good-natured and recently divorced Lou (Bob Hoskins) who takes a shine to Mrs. Flax. The two develop a fun relationship but Mrs. Flax gets claustrophobic when Lou gets too chummy with the kids. Charlotte’s sexuality is awakened by the depressed but brawny Joe (Michael Schoeffling), the town’s school bus driver and recently jilted hunk. Char is immensely conflicted over her lustful thoughts, ill-informed conceptions of the church, and her relationship with her mother. On the surface, Mrs. Flax is a fun-loving broad who likes a good time, but if one looks deeper, you’ll discover that her hands-off approach to parenting lays the groundwork for Charlotte’s inevitable emotional collapse. But that doesn’t stop the gang from dancing in the kitchen to Jimmy Soul, munching on star sandwiches, and getting it on in church steeples. Eventually, Mrs. Flax will have to talk to Charlotte. Charlotte will have to give in to her feelings for Joe. Lou will have to deal with the fact that commitment to Mrs. Flax will be an uphill battle. And Kate will have to sit around, look sweet, and wait for the Addams Family call-back.


I felt a lot of tense uneasiness when I first threw Mermaids into the DVD player. I had heard that the film was an average and super-sappy chick flick drenched in facile sentimentality with a slapped-together tragic ending and an irritating turn by Cher. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my apprehension was uncalled for, as the movie was pretty good. Yes, good. I hereby turn in my Manly-Man Movie Reviewer membership card. So sue me. I am not a fan of Cher but she looked great in the picture - hell, almost flawless. I had never seen her fill out a dress before or since and these newfound curves were very much appreciated. Bringing in some of her Cher traits, her Mrs. Flax was believable and personable, in the sense that despite her brashness, it would be possible to grow to like her in the real world. She is one of those rare talents who can fuse her real persona with that of the character and not skip a beat. And with all the recent gossip about Ryder and her recent forgettable and ill-chosen roles clouding my judgment, I had forgotten how good of an actress she used to be. She is fantastic and energetic as Charlotte, a bewildered young woman struggling with her biological urges and resistance to her mother’s questionable morality. Similarly wonderful is Hoskins as the down-to-earth actualizer of normality and Ricci as the lovable Kate. Director Richard Benjamin (where the hell did he go?) does a fine job recreating an idyllic small town atmosphere that, however alien or clichéd, used to exist somewhere at some time but is no more. Mermaids does not plumb any new depths about mother-daughter relationships or fishes for insights about the disintegration of the American family. It is simply enjoyable to watch, reason enough to pop it in the DVD player without worry.

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