Friday, March 29, 2013

# 88: Step-Mom (1998)

Stepmom (1998) Poster

Code-name: Snowblowing

Director: Chris Columbus
Type: Chick flick

Jackie Harrison- Susan Sarandon
Isabel Kelly- Julia Roberts
Luke Harrison- Ed Harris
Anna Harrison- Jena Malone
Ben Harrison- Liam Aiken

Notable nomination:
Golden Globe- Best Actress- Susan Sarandon


There is an "interesting" line in this movie from which my "code-name" derives:

"I have no interest in someone who doesn't even know what snowblowing is."

It was a line that the titular step-mom, Isabel (Julia Roberts) gives Susan Sarandon's daughter (Jena Malone) to tell her ex-boyfriend while she's "showing off" her new older high school boyfriend... who is a model that Isabel hired to help her out.

Unfortunately it is something that doesn't sit well with her mom, who said that all the kids who heard this exchange will be asking their parents what it means...

For the record, I have no idea, and I'm not sure I want to know. I can only infer that it's something sexual...

Another stand-out moment from this movie is the frequent playing of the song "Ain't no Mountain High Enough"...
a favorite song of the Harrisons, especially Jackie & Ben

Personally, it's one of those songs I'd heard covered so many times that it annoys me on principle. But I do enjoy it in this movie's context.

The premise is rather simple:
The dad and the mom divorced and of course, the dad's newest flame is younger and prettier... the kids, at least Anna, don't seem keen on the new step-mom and it takes quite a while to win them over.
Anna being the older of the two, it's a little more understandable, especially since she's getting into those teenage years where school is beginning to suck just a bit more, between boyfriend issues and having trouble fitting in when it turns sour

The mom doesn't approve of the new step-mom for a number of reasons, most of which are normal. The biggest being she's not sure if she'll do as good a job at taking care of her kids the way she has.
The fact that she is diagnosed with lymphoma makes things a bit rockier, at least for a while. Anna overreacts, as she does a number of times in the first half of this movie, when the news is broken to them several weeks after the diagnosis, in saying "You knew this and you never told me"

I can relate to Anna somewhat, but it doesn't make her drama any less annoying. Her perspective is very self-centered, especially now that we're talking about someone with a terminal illness here.

This movie really starts to pick up for me when Anna and Isabel's relationship improves. They start to bond a bit when Isabel teaches Anna how to paint trees.. one of my favorite scenes in the movie... it's super sugary sweet, but that's what makes it good
It's also kinda cool later on when the mom & step-mom start to bond and have conversations where they compare notes and find common ground.

It's very fitting that this movie was released on Christmas because a) it ends on Christmas day and b) Chris Columbus seems to have a thing for directing movies with Christmas scenes... between the "Home Alone" films and the first two "Harry Potter" movies...

I love the gifts that Isabel made for the kids. Her specialty is photography, so she took old pictures as well as new pictures of the mom and the kids and transferred them to gifts for them. Ben's a budding magician (he got a dove for Christmas as well) so he got a cape with the pictures... and if my memory serves me, Anna got a photogenic scarf

Of course the Christmas scene is really sweet... but it's also a little bittersweet at the same time because we find out it will be the mom's last Christmas, and Isabel will have to take over the reigns on her own.

So it's great that information gets to cycle the way it does before she leaves her children behind.

"Step-Mom" isn't necessarily anything spectacular by any means, but for whatever reason, I can't help but love it and watch it whenever I get the chance.
The progression of the character arcs in the script is really nice and well thought out.
Maybe it's because I enjoy watching Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts... both great actors in their own rights. Maybe it's the chemistry between them.

There are a bunch of things I can say, but ultimately, it's one of those warm & fuzzy films I like to cuddle up with every now and then... again, not quite as fuzzy and warm as "The Holiday," there are some sad and dramatic moments in this film.

These past two films only outrank "The Holiday" on the mere fact I'd only just discovered that movie a couple years ago, so I didn't feel right about singing its praises when I'm still grasping just what they are.

No comments: