Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bill S. Presents: The 6th Annual Mommy Dearest Awards!

Mother's Day is once again here, and it's time have a look at some moms in movies and TV who leave us grateful for the ones we have.


Meredith Jones (Charlotte Rampling) in Georgy Girl (1966). So beautiful on the outside that men trip over themselves to get her attention. On the inside she has ice water in her veins -- she's so cold and soulless you practically root for her husband to cheat on her with the plain (by movie standards) Georgy. After giving birth to her daughter, she feels absolutely nothing, except revulsion. She ignores the baby's crying, won't hold her or touch her -- it's just as well, the child would probably get frostbite. When she ditches the kid and lets Georgy raise her, it turns out to be the best thing for all concerned.

Eve (Geraldine Page) in Interiors (1978) You can tell what her personality is like by her wardrobe: white, black, grey and -- for a more festive mood -- gray. So judgmental and critical that at one point she even complains that her daughter is breathing too hard. So, not exactly a life force.

Mari Hoff (Brenda Blethyn) in Little Voice (1988) A boozy, man-hungry loudmouth, she's a bit like Shelly Winters in A Patch of Blue. Her house is a deathtrap of faulty electrical wiring, with garbage strewn from one end to the other, and fridge full of expired or rotting food. And she treats her daughter with the same level of neglect, failing to even notice how special and talented she is. For me the most telling moment is in their final confrontation, when Mari calls her daughter "Little Voice"(her pet name for the soft-spoken girl), and her daughter angrily corrects her: "It's Laura!" The stunned look on Mari's face suggests that she seems to have actually forgotten this.

Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) in Tangled (2010) In this Disney retelling of "Rapunzel", Gothel holds Rapunzel captive because the girl's tresses have healing powers; they can also restore youth and beauty. Unlike many other Disney villains, Gothel doesn't have any magic powers -- just a talent for manipulation and emotionally blackmailing Rapunzel. She does this chiefly by lying to her about the dangers of the outside world. Her worst lie, of course, is telling her "daughter" she loves her. Sadly, Rapunzel believes this, even when Gothel's true motives are revealed. That's why Rapunzel is upset when Gothel falls from the tower to her death, even reaching out to try and save her. (Has there ever been another Disney movie where a villain's death was treated this way?)

[From Scott: Well, the Evil Queen fell to her death at the climax of Disney's first feature, Snow White (1937), but nobody seemed to give a crap.]

Amy Dunne, AKA "Amazing Amy"(Rosamund Pike) in Gone Girl (2014) Doesn't actually become a mother until the end of the movie, when it's revealed she's pregnant. By that times, we've seen the hell she's put her husband through, and the horrible things she's capable of, including murder. We shudder to imagine what's in store for any kid she might have.


Sutton (Diana Rigg) on You, Me & the Apocalypse. Walking away from the funeral of her eldest son Jude, she bemoans the tragedy of a child dying before his parents. We'd think she was heartbroken if she had a heart to begin with. She murdered her husband, then faked her death for 30 years, leaving her two younger children -- twins Scotty and Rhonda -- orphaned at five, and living in poverty. With the world about to come to an end, she now attempt to track down her family, in the hopes of bringing them to an underground bunker where they might survive. But even that's not enough to make her children too eager to see her. Scotty has to be physically dragged into the bunker because he'd rather die in the apocalypse than see her again.

"My little Scotty bear...I know you have reason to be suspicious of me..."

Indeed he does. Unbeknownst to him and the rest of the family, Sutton's only motive for giving them shelter is to use them for blood transfusions she'll need to keep on living.

BONUS BAD MOM: Mary Conroy (Anastasia Hille), the mother of twins Jamie and Ariel, might be forgiven for leaving infant Jamie in a box in a parking lot, being as how she's nuttier than a Payday bar. But she also let Ariel know, every day of his life, that he was second best -- that Jamie was the special one. And that, more than anything, probably turned him into the evil bastard he grew up to be.

My final entry on this list is somewhat bittersweet, because was portrayed by the incomparable Doris Roberts, who passed away last month at the age of 90. Doris was a veteran of film and television for 65 years. She's best known for her multiple Emmy-winning role of Marie Barone on the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Over the years she's played a number of mom roles, usually dotty, doting ladies who shower their kids with praise and stuff their faces with home-cooked meals.

And then there's the role that puts her on this list: Flo Flotsky on Soap. The mother of young, conflicted priest Timothy Flotsky (AKA Father Tim) only appeared in four episodes, but it was more than enough to land a spot in the Worst Sitcom Mom Hall of Fame. At first, she seems like a typical Doris Roberts role; when Tim comes to visit, she has a pan of lasagna at the ready. But when Tim tells her he plans to leave the priesthood to marry childhood sweetheart Corinne Tate, her reaction is not what he hoped.

God may forgive Tim for leaving the priesthood, but Mama Flotsky isn't going to. When her son brings his fiancé home to meet her, Flo's first impulse is to try and strangle the girl the second Tim leaves the room. TWICE.

"You want my blessing? Is that what you came for? Okay, I'll give you my blessing. This is my blessing: May you never have a happy moment again for the rest of your life. And if you marry, may you know no such thing as peace and quiet. May you only know suffering and hardship and loss. And may you know this until your dying day -- that whatever misfortunes happen, are on your head!"

CORINNE: I can't believe it!

TIM: Neither can I. Actually, she took it better than I thought she would.

She does attend the wedding -- dressed in black -- but only to disrupt the service and cause a scene before being forcibly removed from the church. She then disrupts their honeymoon by calling Tim up ("Mom, it's our wedding night, of course she's here!") and tells him she's had "an attack" of some kind. Tim isn't convinced (she's threatened to die once too many times before), but caves in to guilt and finally arrives at her bedside. This time she makes good on her promise, and drops dead. But not before getting a few final nasty digs at her son and daughter-in-law.

That was the last we saw of Flo Flotsky, but, thankfully, not the last we saw of Doris Roberts. She went on to rack up 11 Emmy nominations, winning five times. For all the laughs (and tears -- her first Emmy win was for her portrayal of a homeless woman on "St. Elsewhere"), we thank you, Doris, and we'll miss you.

And a Happy Mother's Day to any mom reading this!

-Bill S.


Li'l Innocent said...

No, really. Because it has nothing whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. Thanks, guys!!
Today was very beautiful here in the NY metro area, and my own mom, were she still with us, would have enjoyed it very much. Here's to loving mothers everywhere, past and present.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Happy Moms Day to all the good moms!

Bill S said...

Gaston fell to his death in "Beauty In the Beast", but what I meant was, had there ever been a previous instance where a villian's death was met with any sadness? I probably should have worded the question better. :)