Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Film Reviews

‘Parental Guidance’: Lump of coal

We should have seen it coming. Parental Guidance director Andy Fickman’s previous family farce was “You Again,” which this writer called “totally, inanely, numbingly awful …. From the evidence on-screen, [Fickman’s] directorial skills might serve to mount a mediocre high school play.” Now this hack is back, gifting us with another DOA comedy.

Billy Crystal, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott in ‘Parental Guidance’

Pity anyone who heads out to take in Guidance, billed as cheery comedy about the clash between old-school and contemporary child rearing, with heartwarming lessons to be learned by three generations of one fractured family. Parents and children blessed with an iota of gray matter or taste will storm the ticket booth to demand refunds. The only people sitting still for this overlong ordeal will be those brainwashed by bad TV sitcoms into yukking on cue at lowbrow comedy and cardboard clowns.

Alice and Phil Simmons (Marisa Tomei, mugging grotesquely, and Tom Everett Scott) are the type of “helicoptering” mommy and daddy who follow a strict program designed to produce perfect children. Off limits are sugar, competitive games, discipline, any kind of unscheduled fun that might derail the kids’ constant grooming for future success. Forget straight talk: Communication is strictly PC, couched in neutered pseudo-therapeutic jargon: “Use your words” instead of getting mad and bashing a bully. Tempted to talk back? “Your opinion has value.” Even the Simmons’ house is programmed to nag like a nanny — courtesy of dad’s prizewinning invention.

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Posted in: Film Reviews, Musicals

Review: The Rose

[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]

“You know, I’m so tired of the road,” sighs Bette Midler into a telephone near the end of the film. There’s a hesitation in her voice on the word ‘road’ as if she were going to say, “I’m so tired of The Rose” instead. This would not be unusual since the Rose consistently refers to herself in the third person. The film concerns her attempts to slip out from under that suffocating title, and the most intriguing tension within The Rose is that while wanting to make this escape the Rose nevertheless takes refuge behind her misleadingly flowery appellation whenever necessary. She has the ability to snap to brash, acid-tongued life, even from the depths of depression, when she is confronted by an audience: pursuing her sulking lover (Frederic Forrest) through a men’s steambath while keeping up an entertaining banter for the boys; being easily coaxed onstage at clubs she entered as a spectator; and finally, hopelessly drugged at her last concert appearance. This idea of the Rose being more at home while performing than at any other time is underscored by the way director Mark Rydell has filmed an early concert number. “When a Man Loves a Woman,” an exhausting ballad, is shot almost entirely in one long take—and the interesting thing about this song is that the closer we get to the Rose, the more we realize that she is making love with the microphone, her lips trailing over it, with a greater intimacy than we see in her contact with humans.

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