A mother in the 60s and her two daughters move often, almost any time an issue arises of any kind. The mother struggles to find love but not problems. One day they arrive in a small town and things are different. The oldest daughter is starting school, falling in love, and seeing things in a coming of age way. The mother also starts falling in love and fights it the best she can. Can a family finally form and they all obtain happiness?
"Sometimes I feel like you're the child and I'm the grownup. I can't imagine me ever being inside you."
Richard Benjamin, director of Westworld, Catch-22, Deconstructing Henry, Marci X, The Money Pit, Milk Money, and Made in America, delivers Mermaids. The storyline for this picture is very good and a rare coming of age film told from the female perspective. I also loved the unique nature of the mother (who reminded me of one of my best friend's mothers from my childhood). The acting is also better than one may anticipate and the cast includes Cher, Winona Ryder, Bob Hoskins, Christina Ricci, Paula Plum, and Michael Schoeffling.
"Are you always this aggressive after sex?"
This is another film I came across on HBO and remember hearing good things about. I love Bob Hoskins and this was a wonderfully written and executed picture. Ryder and Cher deliver underrated powerful female performances and their interactions were priceless. I strongly recommend seeing this gem.
"She is not just another woman...she's my wife!"
The central complaint I have about the film Mermaids is that the title is misleading. I presumed that the movie might have been some kind of family friendly fantasy film about Mermaids, but in actual fact the title has little relevance to the film whatsoever. I couldn't even imagine a symbolic purpose for the title because it was just seriously confusing. So one of the main reasons I watched Mermaids was because I presumed its title would have relevance to the film in some retrospect. The only sense it made was that there was one scene in which Rachel Flax dressed up as mermaid for a New Years party, as well as the fact that are a lot of references to aquatic activity in the story, ranging from the mermaid costume to Kate Flax being an excellent swimmer and Lou Landsky setting up a bedroom to be designed like the bottom of the ocean. Perhaps the relevance of all this was covered in the original source novel, but in the film adaption I could not make sense of it.
But regardless of the fact that Mermaids was not about mermaids at all, I was surprised just how great a coming of age film it was. Admittedly, a lot of the themes seem a little ridiculous such as Charlotte Flax's obsession with becoming a nun even though she is Jewish and just how all the religious beliefs of hers dominate her life, and of course the fact that the entire Flax family must move every time that Rachel is involved with some kind of scandal or bad breakup. But still, there was a lot of heart in the film and it dealt with some serious coming of age issues such as coming to terms with one's sexuality, responsibility and complex family relationships. The coming of age issues in Mermaids are actually pretty deep even if try go off track a bit at times. I don't know what it is like to grow up as a woman or in the 1960's, but Mermaids projected a lot of insight and understanding into its themes of motherhood, sisterhood and coming of age. Mermaids walks a tricky line between being a comedy and a drama, but thanks to firm direction from Richard Benjamin, it manages to end up succeeding as a compelling and deep drama which also has a lighthearted tone of comedy to it so that it doesn't end up being too melodramatic. It has some moments of inconsistency because it occasionally charters into farfetched territory and concepts which I didn't find that I really believed to be a part of the story, but as a whole there were some interesting ideas touched upon in Mermaids which were done with a truly powerful dramatic atmosphere and a touch of comedy along the way. So while there may be a few plot dynamics that are hard to comprehend as all that sensible, Mermaid transcends that thanks Yo its natural charm and a script which is able to casually play them off as part of the story while supplying a lot of strong dialogue to the actors to work with. It tells an interesting story in a complex context, but most importantly it creates a lot of good characters which demand the actors to be great in the roles. Thanks to perfect casting it is no surprise that they come out successfully, but the other thing that helps the atmosphere of the film progress is its visual style. The cinematography is the main one because it keeps its distance from the characters in most scenes but zeroes in on their facial expressions during the intense moments. It captures the nice scenery of the film as well, so the entire film proves to be a stylish feature.
But like I said, the most essential element of Mermaids is the talents of its cast.
Winona Ryder gives a performance which reminds me why I find her to be one of my all time favourite actresses. In quite possibly the bests performance from the early stages of her career, Winona Ryder gives a leading effort which hits the mark spot on. Although her character experiences the most farfetched elements of the story, Winona Ryder is easily able to make the ahold experience feel organic because of how she attaches herself to the character with such fearless dedication to the part. She really puts herself into the skin of the character she is playing and captures all the uncertainties and awkward elements of the character, projecting a physicality which shows her acting out every situation as if it is naturally coming to her and delivering her lines with a true grip on the complicated emotional state of mind that she is constantly in. Winona Ryder nails her performance dead on in Mermaids, and it is really one of the finest efforts of her career.
Cher manages to make herself a capable foil. In an interesting contrast to the standard mother-daughter archetype in cinema, Cher plays the more free-spirited character of the two and uses her natural charisma to grasp that. Cher manages to exercise a lot of comic spirit in Mermaids without neglecting to put dramatic depth into her character, and without trouble she is able to be both funny and dramatic while also establishing a complex mother-daughter chemistry with Winona Ryder as well as Christina Ricci. Cher exerts a lot of natural acting skill in Mermaids while subtly playing out her sex appeal well, so she manages to make herself a charming and genial presence in Mermaids.
Christina Ricci also makes an excellent debut. The talented actress had come a long way since Mermaids, and it is excellent to look back and see where it all started when she was simply a little child. In Mermaids, it is impossible to dislike her. She shows off a lot of childish spirit and charisma, as well as a serious passion for the part. She combines this with her natural cuteness as well so that it is easy for the viewer to sympathise for her. Christina Ricci is both easy to take seriously as an actress and admirable for being a cute child in Mermaids which is a difficult balance to find, and she shares an excellent chemistry with both Winona Ryder and Cher. Christina Ricci is a great casting decision in Mermaids.
Bob Hoskins is also a nice presence because of his natural charm as an actor. He is easily able to deliver rough edged material, and in Mermaids he is able to do that but still play a charming and friendly figure at the same time. Bob Hoskins gets the part right by playing it with a mix of a naturally likable persona with a fearless determination to be really dramatic about things, walking the balance between them very well. He interacts with the young cast using plenty of charm and shares an interesting romantic chemistry with Cher. Bob Hoskins does his job to make Mermaids even better and succeeds with ease.
So although Mermaids has a misleading title and some farfetched subject matter, it is strengthened by an exceptional cast and a powerful script which carries its coming-of-age themes very easily.
Starring Winona Ryder, Cher, Christina Ricci and a host of other renowned and noble 90's stars, I was expecting Mermaids to be gripping and worthy of my time. I can tell you now, it wasn't.
Portrayed as a 'comedy drama' set in the 1960's, this heinous monstrosity is definitely not comical (unless of course you categorise painful attempts at humour as funny.) I will not waste my time recounting the agonising puns littering the film because I can tell you now; it would be like tearing your intestines out with a blunt knife.
Director Richard Benjamin, seems to have simply ignored myriad crucial details in the film, one of them being that the bothersome, obtuse Charlotte (Ryder) wants to be a nun... now there is nothing wrong with that, of course, but there is one craterous chasm in this plot: Charlotte is in fact Jewish. Even in the 90's, there was still no Jewish equivalent to nuns. I have some advice for Mr Benjamin: research your story lines before you write them, ok?
I know this bland-to-ridiculous film is deemed as a 'cult classic', but in reality it is just as tedious as every other run-of-the-mill teen movie. It clings on like a limpet to the typical conventions.. you know the score: girl moves in to a new house.. meets a guy.. falls in love etc. etc. Except in this film, 15 year old Charlotte (let me make this clear: fifteen year old Charlotte) falls in love with 26, yes 26 year old Joe. Let me tell you this love story didn't create enough sparks to light a barbecue.
Now let me tell you something that is so ludicrous you'll cringe whilst reading it. Charlotte decides to take a trip to the doctors. What for I hear you ask? Well she takes a trip to the doctors as she has had a pregnancy scare. So you're probably thinking, ok, not too abnormal for somebody to have a pregnancy scare right? But what if I told you that Charlotte was indeed, a virgin. Now I'm sure that you don't need the 'birds and the bees' talk. It doesn't take a genius to work out that you can't be impregnated by simply just sitting there.
If you think that's ridiculous, then wait until you hear that Charlotte kissed Joe (after her mum had had a go on him first of course) even though, at first, she believed any contact with a boy was satanic (you know because of the whole 'I want to be a nun' thing she had going on.) Weird right? But then she goes back to thinking that all contact with boys is evil and scrubs at her face to get the 'cooties' off. Confusing I know. You would have thought she had made up her own damn mind by now right? Well.. no she still hasn't. Later on in the film she decides that she (a fifteen year old girl) wants to have sex with twenty six year old Joe. So she gets drunk, and puts her mum's clothes on and I'm sitting there like 'whatever look you're going for, you missed'. Charlotte also thinks that it's all fine and dandy letting her 9 year old sister (Ricci) get drunk too. Thinking she looks as feisty and fierce as Beyoncé would have in the 60's, Charlotte and her drunk 9 year old sister stumble their way down to the lake. I bet you can already tell this is a recipe for disaster. So whilst Charlotte is up in the bell tower doing the 'dirty' with Joe, she leaves her drunk sister by the lake with rocks in her pocket- yes I did say rocks. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happens here.
This film is without question the most irrational, illogical and senseless 'comedy drama' known to man. There is simply no way whatsoever to make sense of this pathetic excuse for a film and I fail to understand how the 'stars'(and I use the term stars very loosely) in this film we're able to credibly continue their careers after this film was released.