Serial Mom Reviews
You would never guess she was a serial killer. She is a housewife, a woman that speaks like Carol Brady and conveys the innocence of Lucy Ricardo - but if anyone dares to wear white shoes after labor day, eat rotisserie chicken, break her daughter's heart, or accuse her son of having a sick fascination with horror movies, they meet their end. Beverly isn't like one of Cary Grant's spinster aunts in "Arsenic and Old Lace". She is the female Norman Bates, or even better, Norman Bates' mother.
John Waters has made plenty of completely tasteless, sincerely crazy movies, but "Serial Mom" contains no dog poop consumption, no wacky drag queens. It's accessible, and, ultimately, a complete delight.
The suburban setting is played in such a satirical light that when the birds aren't chirping, the neighbors aren't making small talk over cookies, Beverly's antics are a sheer shock, all the more funny because it plays with such contrast over everything else. The early scenes in the film, which show Beverly with her family before school, are bitingly hilarious because you can feel how much Waters is going out of his way to make all the fun he can of the likes of Donna Reed or Doris Day.
As a serial killing mom, Turner is fabulous. The film is one of Waters' few that have a serious actress at the front, and Turner is totally campy and clearly having a fantastic time. When she's playing a goody-two-shoes mother, Turner's voice is breathy and deceivingly sweet, but once she turns into a maniac, the evil glimmer in her eyes is thoroughly convincing, even a little bit frightening. People think of Turner as the femme fatale in "Body Heat" or Chandler's mom in "Friends". But as Serial Mom, she gives one of her most memorable, finest performances.
What keeps the film from floating away into planet camp is how satirically smart it is. Once Beverly is arrested, the media goes into a flurry. Rather than making her out to be a monster, she becomes a celebrity, understandably. With her kindly image and murderous instincts, she's a character of unbelievability and it attracts the attention of nearly everyone around her.
Outside her trial, her kids sell Serial Mom merchandise, whether it be buttons, T-shirts or hats. One women even sympathizes with Beverly: "I could kill a few people myself sometimes," she groans. After Beverly kills someone at a rock concert (the band, Camel Lips, is actually L7 in disguise), the crowd doesn't look at her with hate, but instead, with glory, chanting "Serial Mom! Serial Mom!"
Whether Waters is trying to warn against the influences of media or simply laugh at how twisted it can get, it's hard to tell. But what he has concocted is a superbly fun and outrageous comedy that is, still, unlike any comedy out there. And with cameos from Traci Lords, Patty Hearst (yes, Patty Hearst), Joan Rivers, and Suzanne Sommers (who is playing herself, studying Beverly for the chance of an Emmy), "Serial Mom" is broad and funny.