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May 8, 2011

Mother's Boys - Not The Best Movie To Represent Mother's Day

(1994, Dir. by Yves Simoneau.)

Last year, FMWL celebrated Mother's Day the right way.  Actually, we honored The Mike's awesome Masha hardcore.  It's not that there aren't more awesome things I could say about my Masha, who's continued to be an awesome inspiration to me through another year of trials and tribulations and is one of the coolest people of ever to boot, but I decided to take a different route this Mother's Day.  (P.S. - Love ya Masha! And yes, I should.)

Meanwhile, we've got Mother's Boys. A few weeks ago I made fun of Mother's Boys during Scream Week, commenting that I didn't think there was a person out there who saw this mostly maligned thriller from the mid-'90s.  I was proved wrong by E from Shredded Cheddar, and thus decided that I needed to see Mother's Boys now. After all, it is a horror-ish movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis. If anyone out there has served as a cinematic mother to me by setting good examples of how to survive life's trials and tribulations, it's Jamie Lee Curtis.

That said, this is NOT - in any way - a situation where I should follow the lead of the usually trusted JLC.

Curtis stars as Jude, an absentee mother who returns from a hiatus and attempts to reconnect with her husband (American Beauty's Peter Gallagher) and, most importantly, her three young sons.  Much to her displeasure, Gallagher's Robert is now very much dating a younger woman who works at the kids' school (played by Joanne Whalley(-no-longer)-Kilmer, who was married to the awesome Val Kilmer at the time in the real!), and doesn't have much interest in this unhinged woman who has run out on him and the boys twice before.  Jude is not one to be dissuaded, and as she wanders around her classy apartment she devises her own ways to win over her children and her husband. (It should be noted that the couple's divorce had not been finalized due to Jude's absence, which sets up an interesting moral dilemma that the film toys with only briefly.)

Jude is certainly not the most interesting sociopath we've seen on screen, but Curtis does what she can to keep things fresh throughout the film. The film takes several sexual twists regarding her character, and as Jude walks around taking every opportunity to show off her chest it becomes increasingly evident that her sexuality is her primary weapon.  A couple of early scenes are interesting statements on human sexuality, as Jude - who isn't too appealing to the viewer and is seen as repulsive by her husband - tries to seduce Robert and is dangerously close to succeeding simply because she presses the issue so forcefully by touching or showing off the right places.  Robert's relationship with his estranged wife is kind of like when you grow up loving a McDonalds cheeseburger and then realize they're not good for you.  Despite all the things you know, when one gets put in your face you're probably going to bite. (If you didn't follow that analogy, yes, I mean a crazy JLC is like a McDonalds cheeseburger.)

(In contrast, it's interesting to me that Jude - who uses her body like a dog owner uses a Milkbone - consistently refers to Whalley's character as a whore, despite the fact that her relationship with Robert is scarcely shown in a sexual context. This may be the film's best way of showing how far gone from reality Jude really is.)

But it's not the marital relationship that is the film's crux, it's Jude's attempts to regain the trust of her children. The three young boys each have different feelings about their mother's return, and the interactions between them are interesting when they're not being dominated by the eldest son, Kes (What the heck kind of name is Kes? That seriously bugged me THE ENTIRE MOVIE.), who fits that "First Born = Mom's Favorite" cliche to a T.  Kes rubbed me the wrong way for the entirety of the film. While I think the intention of his mental changes was to make him the closest link to being "like his mother", I must admit I spent much of the film wanting to smack him upside the head and tell him to stop being so emo.  As the film goes on it becomes more and more centered on being Jude and Kes' story, and it also becomes more ridiculous each time the childrens' trusty handcuffs or a cut brake line become part of the story.

Going in to Mother's Boys with only a brief memory of an awful trailer from a VHS tape, I expected something far worse than what I got. French-Canadian director Yves Simoneau infuses the film with a lot of psychological intrigue at times - not to mention one really effective jump scare that put my hair on end - but the whole product resembles the lead character a bit too much. Like Jude, things go from a high point of real intrigue to a laughable point of over-the-top drama far too often as Mother's Boys makes its way toward the finish line. There are far better sleazy thrillers of this sort - The Good Son instantly comes to mind - to find; Mother's Boys will probably just stick in my mind as an intriguing miss that at least brought Curtis and Dimension Films together so they could later make two Halloween sequels.

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, dear. I hadn't meant that throwaway comment of mine during Scream Week to be taken as a recommendation! LOL!

Ironically (on a purely personal level), the only reason I watched this so long ago was that a reviewer I trusted gave it a perfect 5 stars. (!?!?!) I never took another recommendation from him again. =P

Mother's Boys is definitely not one of Curtis's best. She does hold the movie together; but that doesn't say much when the movie doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. I'd say they were going for something Oedipal between Kes and Jude--but in that case, the target should have been Robert and not Callie. Just lack of focus, I guess.

Oh, and "Kes" bothered me at the time, too! But what was really interesting was that I found a book which also had a character named "Kes"--short for Christopher! LOL!