Friday, May 06, 2011

Moms on Film

What are your favorite films with a mother as one of the key characters? I've listed my picks below in honor of Mother's Day, and fortunately, all the films mentioned below are available now on DVD.

In the atmospheric thriller Dark Water, Jennifer Connolly shows what lengths a mom will go to in order to save her child. This Oscar-winning actress -- for A Beautiful Mind -- gives one of her best performances here as a woman trying to protect her daughter from the mysterious things happening in their creepy new apartment. Likewise, Jodie Foster, a two-time Oscar winner (for Silence of the Lambs and The Accused), excels in Flightplan as a mother frantically searching for her daughter when the little girl disappears during a flight from Berlin to the U.S.

Not surprisingly, two of my favorite films of this type star Susan Sarandon, who began playing movie moms at an age when most actresses would even consider this kind of role. Sarandon was only in her thirties when she took on the role of Brooke Shields’ mom in Pretty Baby, and since then she’s been a “reel” mother in many other movies -- including Little Women, Stepmom, The Banger Sisters, and Anywhere but Here . But in my opinion, she gave her best “mom” performances in Lorenzo’s Oil and Moonlight Mile.

As Michaela Odone in Lorenzo’s Oil, Sarandon becomes a “tiger mother” trying to protect and save her son, a youngster suffering from a disease doctors claimed was incurable. In Moonlight Mile, Sarandon’s “Jo-Jo” grieves in her own sarcastic way for a daughter killed in a random act of violence. Both of these roles showcase Sarandon’s skill in portraying strong yet vulnerable women who must deal with tragic situations. On the other hand, Sarandon can play outrageous moms almost as well as she nails these serious ones. If you don’t believe me, check out Anywhere but Here.

And speaking of outrageous movie moms, another favorite of mine is Juliette Binoche’s character in Chocolat. The luminescent Binoche projects a wonderful playfulness as the mother of a preteen daughter in this unusual romantic fantasy. Maybe the two don’t always get along, but how could anyone stay angry at a mom who makes everyone’s favorite chocolate confections?

Shirley MacLaine’s memorable turn in Carolina as a grandmother who raises all her son’s daughters is also something special to me, probably because I spent so much time with my own amazing grandmothers as a child. Playing Grandma Mirabeau, the incomparable MacLaine exudes raw energy, bold determination and an unwavering love for her character’s dysfunctional family. It’s a flamboyant and poignant performance worth treasuring.

(For Kelly Tucker and Sue Litton, with love from Mom.)

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