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Monday, February 14, 2011

Parenthood (released in 1989) - A comedy and drama film starring Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen

Every family has its dysfunctional moments. There are not Brady Bunch families where everything is hunky dory and is solved with unity and courage. In reality parents and children are individuals who make choices for their self preservation and in the process find happiness to conjoin with others with the same sensibilities.
Steve Martin stars as Gil Buckman, a highly strung sales executive who is facing extreme pressures at work. His hard driving boss forces him to spend more time in shoring up the profits for the company. Gil despises him for this extra work which keeps him away from his family and simple pleasures of life. He also draws a parallel to his father's workaholic nature which led to an estrangement. Gil wants to be an hands down dad and feels a failure when his son Kevin is diagnosed with emotional problems entailing therapy by the school psychologist. Gil's other daughter and son also have minor issues and the biggest shock comes to him when his wife Mary announces that she is pregnant with their fourth child. Gil is scared about the financial burdens the family will be put through by the arrival of his fourth child.
As Gil questions his abilities as a father, Frank searches out him to ask him about Larry, his second but wayward son. Gil is surprised when Frank tell him that he considers him to be a great father and needs his advice. His fathers trust quells Gil's heart and mends their relationship.

Meanwhile Gil's sister Helen has her own problems as her dentist husband deserts the family. Her young son Gary begins to have dysfunctional problems as his father literally disowns him. Her once brilliant daughter Julie marries a slacker Tod and gets pregnant and they live out of Helen's house. In her desperation Helen asks Tod to take Gary under his wing and a strong bond develops between the two. Helen starts respecting Tod to that extent that when Julie wants to break up with him she asks her to face her fears by supporting Tod.
Another sister of Gil's, Susan faces an over indulgent father as an husband. Her husband is excessively obsessed with his precocious daughter, Patty that he has no time for Susan. Susan craves for his attentions and longs for another child. As it becomes clear that her husband is interested in developing Patty, Susan leaves the house. With her departure the well oiled mechanism stumbles and even Patty struggles in her studies. Her husband begs her to come back and Susan asks him to consider her feelings as well.
Gil's younger brother Larry reaches Franks house with his biracial son Cool and thugs in his tow. He tries to borrow money from Frank who obliges as along as he takes over the family business. But as time passes he realizes that Larry would never be responsible and lets him go out of his life leaving Cool behind. The family is again reunited when Helen gives birth to a baby. A semblance of normality is restored as she marries Gary's biology teacher who gives Gary the emotional anchor. Julie and Tod stay together and Susan reunites with her family. Gil and Mary become parents and Frank enjoys a second chance at fatherhood with Cool. All is well that ends well.
This movie had a decent box office run and also is a critics favorite. I just feel that it is an easy take on the challenges of parenthood with problems getting solved easily. But still its a compelling story directed by Ron Howard. It has two academy award nominations to its credit with Diane West as the best supporting actress and for the best song. All the actors are lovable and identifiable in their roles and a special mention does go for Keanu Reaves's performance as a fun loving slacker who learns to be a parent. A good feel good movie.

Parenthood (released in 1989) - A comedy and drama film starring Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen

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