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Top 10 Movie Mothers May 8, 2009

 

"I'll ask you just one more time...Where the hell is the PTA meeting at?"
“I’ll ask you just one more time…Where the hell is the damn PTA meeting at?!?”

Instead of an introduction like I normally do, I’m going to give Paul and Storm the honours. Take it away, boys -

 

Peg BoggsEdward Scissorhands – This lovely, adorable suburban Mum/Avon Lady is frightened at first when she happens upon Edward but her terror at his appearance quickly turns to concern, then the maternal care kicks in. She’s the one who really takes the time and effort to get to know Edward and is rewarded with unconditional faithfulness from him in return. I never completely bought the love story between Kim and Edward but the bond between him and Peg seemed to sprout faster then the woman could grow her hair for him to cut. I mean, by the end of the movie, she’s practically bald.

 

Sarah ConnorTerminator 1 & 2 – John Connor’s psychiatrist bills must be HUGE. That is, if they have shrinks in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. As a grown man, you send your best friend back in time to save your Mum knowing full well that this pal is actually your Dad and he’s going to snuff it. Then, as a teen, your Mum is locked away in the nuthouse for telling everyone that you’re a Christ-figure that’s going to deliver humanity from extinction. Which turns out to be true. What keeps his head from exploding? The strength and resourcefulness Sarah Connor bestows on her son through all the craziness. Shaping the boy who will become the man that saves the human race makes Sarah the Mother of a Future that she never gets to see.

 

Aurora GreenwayTerms Of Endearment – Once my Mum became a Mother, she said that her other fears abated and boiled down to something bad happening to me. I didn’t make this easy on her by climbing up chimneys or jumping off Olympic-sized diving boards at the age of 5 (”Hi, Mum!”). For Aurora, the nightmare of seeing her child dying becomes a reality and while she’s been a confusing and overbearing person for Emma to deal with, when it matters, Emma’s Mum has her daughter’s best interests at heart. Don’t mess with a Mama Bear.

Erin BrockovichErin Brockovich – Henry Rollins; musician, writer and activist, Ex-Black Flag founder and current Hard-Rock-Hard-Man made a confession in an interview I read a few years back. He only hires women and if they happen to be Mothers, so much the better. Because, in his words, “women work harder and are tougher. Mothers are prepared for anything”. Mothers are not just nurturers, cookie-makers and boo-boo kissers but human lie-detectors, that juggle many things at the same time with heat-seeking precision and have eyes in the back of their head. Yet so frequently, their 24/7 workload is looked at like it’s no big feat of skill. Erin applies all she’s learned as a Mum to her new job, brings down a huge corporation and finally gets respect. While a terrific underdog story, it doesn’t sit all that well with me that striving to keep a roof over her family’s head and food on the table by herself wasn’t enough to warrant the respect she longed for. But I guess that wouldn’t make a very interesting movie.

Bambi’s MotherBambi – Oh, everyone’s going to hate me for including her but Bambi’s Mother dying is a brilliant, unforgettable emotional experience and in my opinion, The Greatest Cinema Death of All Time. And we don‘t even know her name. A genius move in the screenplay, since we’re forced to see her through Bambi’s eyes alone – she’s simply; ‘Mother’. Man, Disney knows their stuff. After I saw this, I camped outside my parents’ bedroom in my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag for about a week and I was not a clingy child. For that short time, I wouldn’t let Mary Feeney out of my sight! That being said, I wouldn’t give up the memory of having watched this at a young age for anything. It’s important for kids to get the chance to grieve in a safe environment when parents can have some control, turn the DVD off, listen to their questions and explain as best they can. Children are made of sterner stuff than we give them credit for and we don’t get many attempts in life at a ‘practice run’ for this kind of thing. (Yes, you may stop reading this immediately to rush to the phone and ring your Mum. I totally understand. I’ll wait.)

Mrs. BucketWilly Wonka and The Chocolate Factory – A good Mum makes her child’s dreams and disappointments her own. Mrs. Bucket doesn’t have a large role in the film but it’s very clear in a wonderful performance (by the underrated Diana Sowle) that she plays a big part in Charlie’s ‘dare to believe’ attitude. Simultaneously, she wants to protect him AND encourage him to be hopeful – cos she knows you can’t have both; if you want to build your desire into fruition, you have to be prepared to be crushed. But that’s OK, it’s alright to try and fail, dust yourself off and try again. Her shining moment is a song about how it’s brave to have dreams and when fate closes a door, it opens a window. Or a chocolate bar wrapper.

Ellen RipleyAliens – Do you have to carry and give birth to a child to feel a strong maternal instinct? I think not. In the final scene, essentially there are two Mothers fighting it out for their children’s survival – The Alien Queen and our girl Ripley. Ripley’s infamous war-cry is so fitting that even JK Rowling stole it almost word for word in one of the ‘Potter‘ books. The iconic “Get away from her, you bitch!” is something every Mother has thought at some point when having to deal with her kid being bullied or when someone has upset her child. Where’s a big crane-like suit thing when ya need it?

Princess GiselleEnchanted – If you’re a girl (or a boy! I don‘t want to be exclusionary here), you’ll probably remember those times when Mum got ready to go out for a night. This is a fascinating transformation to watch when you’re little and afterwards, she looks like a princess instead of your ‘Everyday Mum’. When Giselle meets Robert’s daughter, Morgan, something clicks between them and Morgan falls in love with Giselle way before her father does. Watching the scene where they shop together for a ball and their bonding (”Is this what it’s like to go shopping with your Mother?” asks Morgan) lets us know that not only has this princess found her prince but a family and a happy one they make too. No place here for wicked step-mothers.

Rachel FlaxMermaids – Kids don’t come with ‘How-To’ manuals and every generation of Mums do well to just improve on the Mums that came before. While growing up, it can be difficult to understand that your Mum is learning as she goes too and makes mistakes along the way. Before this is understood, there must be the natural power-play between Mother and Child for the upper-hand. Mum embarrasses you, you’re an ungrateful little snipe and so on. It won’t be perfect, it will be messy and especially in this situation, with 3 women under the same roof, you can be sure it’ll be very very loud and shout-y. But there’s one thing it won’t be and that’s dull. Then, you become an adult and realize your Mum is actually a human being and kind of fun to hang out with.

Mrs. DeVitoGoodfellas – Tough guys, bad guys, wimps, heroes and villains – they all love their Mums. This is a double-whammy since Catherine Scorsese not only played Tommy’s Mother but is Martin Scorsese’s Mama in real life. This is the ’Meta-Movie Mum’ portion of the programme. Mrs. Scorsese plays the ultimate Italian Mother because she IS the ultimate Italian Mother. Insisting that her son and his friends eat at some ungodly hour, giving out to her boy for not calling her enough or finding a “nice girl to settle down with” , showing off her painting and telling stories from the Old Country. Marty says that when he was a budding film-maker, one way he got people to work for free was promising a homemade spread courtesy of his Mama, a ritual that she continued well into his career when he could more than afford craft service on his productions. Bless you, Mrs. S. I miss your cameos and bet that every time it rains it means you‘re cooking up a storm.

If I can get personal for a moment, I’d like to dedicate this article to my own Mum, Mary Feeney. She’s cool like Erin Brockovich, as fierce as Ripley and Sarah Connor, a whiz at the culinary arts like Mrs. DeVito, supportive like Mrs. Bucket, as much fun as Mrs. Flax and more beautiful than Princess Giselle. Here’s some Cliff Richard just for you, Mum. Happy Mother’s Day, love Erin:

*Thanks to the people who make the videos.

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6 Comments
Rich May 9th, 2009

The old wicked stepmother thing didn’t even dawn on me when I saw Enchanted, but it’s a great point. Subverting convention. Amy Adams sold that character and made that film.

Bambi’s mom is a great case of what’s unseen is what makes it so powerful. But the deer that the Good Fellas hit with their car, that wasn’t just an excuse, it was actually Bambi’s mum, and they shot her. True story. Although I still think the best onscreen cinema death is Connery’s Malone in The Untouchables. And nobody can kick the bucket quite like Kevin Spacey.

Sharon T. May 9th, 2009

I think you forgot one, Michael Keaton-Mr. Mom. He rocked at playing coupon poker, and got his son to give up his “wooby”. That’s hardcore!

Brenda Burnley May 9th, 2009

What a lovely tribute to your mum for Mother’s Day.

Erin May 9th, 2009

Pity she’ll never read it though, Brenda! She pretty much points at a computer and shouts, “Devilbox!” Maybe one of the tech-savvy kids can bring it up for her sometime.

I did think about ‘Mr. Mom’ and ‘Junior’ (Arnie pregnant is funny, I have to admit) but I reckon the boys get enough credit. :-) I’ll have a ‘Movie Dads’ list in June.

Howard May 12th, 2009

Some of your most entertaining and thoughtful writing. Bambi’s mother and Ripley in the same article? Great choices. Well done, Erin.

D.J. June 2nd, 2009

What a beautiful article and Mary Fenney is lucky to have a daughter such as yourself!

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