Sons and Mothers
By D. Scott Apel
May 10 is Mother's Day, a significant holiday for any of us who started out as
children. It is the one day of the year during which we are honor-bound to
approach Mom with more than a hand full of "gimme" and a mouth full of "much
Sons particularly are expected to praise their mums and catalog fond
recollections of affections. Indeed, I, too, might succumb to a kind of inner
mistiness thinking of my own darling gray-haired mother enjoying her Golden
Years while knitting in her rocker, were she not younger-looking than I am, and
hard at work behind a desk at Lockheed Martin. (Not to mention being off her
rocker for years.)
This is not to say I don't love her dearly. I do, I do -- it's in my contract!
But the key here, as in all things, is moderation ... without which we
face the risk of becoming one of the subjects of this tabloid TV-inspired piece:
"Men Who Love Too Much, And The Moms Who Motivate Them."
Mother (1997; Paramount; R). Albert Brooks wrote and
directed himself in this twisted rib-tickler about a middle-aged failure whose
lack of luck with women he attributes to his very first relationship with the
distaff gender: i.e., his mom. When he determines to revert to being a "mama's
boy" and moves back into her house to resolve that unsettled trauma, he uncovers
much more than he bargained for about his dear, dimwitted mama's pre- and
post-child life. Not Brooks' best film, but full of the everyday absurdities of
the mother-son struggle -- not to mention a delightful performance by Debbie
Reynolds as his not-such-a-dimbulb dam.
White Heat (1949; Key Video; unrated). Jimmy Cagney
plays a warped mama's boy in this Freudian crime classic. His entire life of
gangsterism, it seems, sprang from a single source: the desire to impress his
Mom (played to evil perfection by Margaret Wycherly). Director Raoul Walsh moves
the movie along at frantic speed, and Cagney is at his psychotic, frothing best
when the news of his mother's death reaches him in the prison mess hall. His
subsequent breakdown, breakout and explosive death culminates in one of film's
most quotable lines: "Top of the world, Ma!"
Throw Mama From The Train (1988; Warner; PG-13). Anne
Ramsey is the Mother From Hell in this dark comedy directed by Danny DeVito, who
also stars as her middle-aged "boy," Owen. By the time this mild-mannered mental
midget confuses his writing teacher's (Billy Crystal) conversation as an offer
to do Mama in (borrowing a device from Hitchcock's classic Strangers on a
Train), we've seen poor mama-dominated Owen endure enough of her depravity
to root for the success of the non-existent plan. Will Owen be a good boy and
protect Mama against his own murderous inclinations? Or will he go totally over
the edge and end up like Norman Bates in...
Psycho (1960; MCA; unrated). Alfred Hitchcock's film
about a shy, quiet guy as nervous as a bird (Anthony Perkins), with a penchant
for knives and dresses, has always been pegged as a classic chiller. And yet,
viewed from this new perspective, we can almost interpret it as a tender story
of a boy's love for his mother -- a love so strong that it transcends death. We
can almost interpret it that way. But we won't.
Murmur of the Heart (1971; Orion; unrated). Most boys
don't want to murder their moms. Just the opposite. Ask Dr. Freud, who would
have been proud of (and undoubtedly a touch embarrassed by) this French import
by director Louis Malle, a tender coming-of-age story about a young man whose
first fling is with (get ready for a real surprise) his beautiful, liberated
mere. The petite amour is played as a comedy with a dark edge,
with both mother and son coming away better for the experience ... although they
should count their blessings that "The Jerry Springer Show" didn't exist in
Certainly this is as far into obsession as a boy's love for his mother can go,
right? Sorry, kids. We've saved the best for last; the one film that elevates
incest to an art:
Oedipus Rex (1967; Facets Multimedia; unrated). In
fulfillment of a prophecy that he will murder his father and marry his mother,
Oedipus fights his way to his fate, all the while believing he is fleeing from
it. Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini directed the classic tale of the doomed
hero of Thebes in this eclectic adaptation of Sophocles' monumental tragedy -- a
film that'll really knock your eyes out!
D. Scott Apel is the former video columnist for the
San Jose (CA) Mercury News, and is author of the video guide
Killer B's: The 237 Best Movies On Video You've (Probably)
Will We Remember Them? Oscar Winners From the
Oscar's Cinema Lineage
Love Makes the World Go 'Round
Buried Treasures of 1997
It's a Wonderful Film: Frank Capra's
Christmas gift to the world.
Intelligent alien connections with
"Contact" ... and other benign close encounters.
Die Laughing: 13 flicks guaranteed to
rattle your funny bones.
Film Noir: Build a library of some classic
Thanksgiving turkeys: A giblet-eye view of the
worst of 1997.
| Contents |
©1996, 1997, 1998 CyberPod. All rights reserved
CyberPod and OnVideo are trademarks of CyberPod Productions.
May 5, 1998