Parents


Year 1989

Randy Quaid as  Nick Laemle
Mary Beth Hurt as Lily Laemle
Sandy Dennis as Millie Dew
Bryan Madorsky   as Michael Laemle
London Juno as Sheila Zellner
 
Director - Bob Balaban
Screenwriter - Christopher Hawthorne  

An oddly compelling story of a young boy who finally admits to himself the truth about his parents eating choices. Not compelling in the sense that its engrossing as a result of building tension, but more compelling in the sense that you don't want to look away. "I can stop watching whenever I want!" you might proclaim. But, in fact, despite the low key and slow pace, you'll probably wait and see what's next.

Is there a trick ending? Is what I see happening really the truth or is my point of view being manipulated? To find out those answers, you'll probably stay to the end. The final confrotation between Michael (Madorsky) and his parents is actually pretty well done.

Mis-billed as a black comedy, this movie is more about style than humor. Oh, there are a few moments that'll make you smile. But other times, the attempts at comedy are more embarassing than laugh enducing.

The parents are Nick Laemle (Quaid) and his wife Lily (Hurt). Nick is some sort of death developing biologist at Toxico (the name's one of the smattering of jokes). He seems to work every other day and "has a lot going on up here" (head tap). Lily is a stay at home mom who's never at home. Michael has the run of the house most days.

The family has just moved to a new town and Michael needs to fit in. He goes to a new school (where they get to the bottom of things), has nightmares, and has a crush on an older odd girl.

And "odd" seems to sum up the movie. The movie looks like it's supposed to be a study in contrasts between 1950's normalcy and what happens behind the facade. The style, products, and accessories of the 1950s have been wonderfully captured. There's a typical 50's style split level home with an attached carport. It's perfect the way the scene is framed to show the high windows of the house and the off center slope of the roof as well as the green Oldsmobile in the carport.

Nearly everything is green for some reason, even the interior of the house. Except for the kidney shaped coffee table. (Kidney shaped? Oh, another joke!)

Into this weird, outwardly perfect, 50's environment are added the stern but loving father, the dutiful wife, the teacher who thinks she's great, and the chain smoking social worker (Sandy Dennis). Life turns out not to be perfect.

The movie focuses on meat, pounds of it, at least ten pounds of it at a dinner for three. It's baked, barbequed, and fried. It can come with corn on the cob or sauce, but the meal's still meat.

Nick is the odd one but his wife Lily, presumably because she loves her husband, is embracing Nick's quirks. Michael can't seem to fit in with his parents and he has nightmares as a result.

Although there's very little gore, there are some cringe worthy scenes. There's the autopsy room where things are effectively hinted at rather than put on display. There's the scene with someone grabbing a knife blade with both hands and having the knife pulled away. There's the cutting of the meat, which gets unnerving after a while.

Will Michael fit in? Will the school help him? How many of those songs are really from the 50s?

There's no blasphemy or profanity. There's next to nil for chick flick potential. It's still a one of a kind movie, thanks mostly to a great cast and direction, and worth watching if off-beat is for you.


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