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Mermaids (1990)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Genres:
Comedy Drama, Coming-Of-Age, Domestic Comedy, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Director:
Richard Benjamin Richard Benjamin
Starring:
Cher Cher
Bob Hoskins Bob Hoskins
Winona Ryder Winona Ryder
Michael Schoeffling Michael Schoeffling
Christina Ricci Christina Ricci

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: December 09, 2009
I'll be honest: I really hate those coming-of-age dramas because there's always these really awkward scenes that weird me out too much. I guess you could say that's a sign of powerful film making, but in no way do I find that a pleasurable experience, so I shy away from them. At first glance, Mermaids seemed to be right in that genre, but it also happens to be Christina Ricci's very first movie, so we all know which way that scale tipped.

Fifteen year old Charlotte Flax's (Winona Ryder) family could be called a lot of things, but conventional sure isn't one of them. Her mother, Rachel (Cher), has a penchant for loose dating, and when the relationship goes south, she simply packs up and moves her and her family. Charlotte is the polar opposite; she's hell-bent on becoming a nun (an interesting choice for a Jewish girl) and vowing to stay pure and celibate. Little sister Katie (Christina Ricci) is apparently following in her Olympic swimmer father's footsteps, and is quite obsessed with the sport. She's also the only thing Charlotte and her mother have in common, and the two frequently bump heads. Their latest impulsive move has landed them in a small Massachusetts town, where Charlotte is pleased to find they live right next door to a convent. On the other hand, she finds herself madly in lust with the caretaker, a twenty-six year old kid named Joe. Meanwhile, Rachel starts a relationship with a local store owner named Lou (Bob Hoskins). Lou quickly wins over her children, but their relationship becomes much more familiar than Rachel typically cares for.

While there's some potential here, it loses a lot of steam because it doesn't know what it wants to do with itself. The three main relationships are Charlotte and Joe, Rachel and Lou, Charlotte and her mother, and they all share time in an ensemble type format, but none of them are given enough depth to really mean anything to the viewer. They all feel like sub-plots to a bigger picture that doesn't exist. Charlotte and Joe are probably given the most attention, or rather Charlotte and her inner battle with her lustful thoughts, handled via voice over. For me, this was a great choice, as all those really awkward scenes I can't stand were alleviated with her thoughts of "Did you just say that? What the hell is wrong with you?" I liked it, but if you're one of those who likes the awkwardness, you may find it more distracting. Their relationship itself is shallow and rushed, and her mother's relationship with Lou is pretty much identical. They hook up, next thing you know, it's months later and they're arguing over the depth of their relationship. It's hard to give a damn about these relationship when Benjamin skipped over the steak for the sizzle.

What gives this film any worth at all is that third relationship. Cher and Winona Ryder have an insanely great chemistry, and watching them go back and forth was a hell of a lot of fun. From the light ribbing to the inevitable all-out emotional explosions that make up the climaxes of these movies, neither woman misses a beat. These two single handedly gave the film a leg to stand on. Meanwhile, Bob Hoskins is up to his usual par as Lou, even if he doesn't get enough time to shine, and Michael Schoeffling is just kind of there as Joe. When it comes to child actors, they usually fall into two camps: "suck" and "didn't hurt anything". In her film debut, ten year old Christina Ricci sits comfortably in the latter. Sure, I might be biased, but her successful career following this movie backs me up. Basically, she's something of a comedic relief character here, and just runs around being cute and quirky.

For the entertainment value it delivers, I'd give it a 5 or so, but if you go into a movie looking for a solid, crisp plot line, go ahead and dock a few points. It's not a bad movie, just an empty one.
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AttnDefDis #1: AttnDefDis - added 12/09/2009, 08:49 AM
I love this movie and I think the four main characters all shine. Charlotte and Rachel definitely play off each other well and Katie is adorable. She steals every scene. Which is not an easy task in this movie. I don't think the casting could have been better and as for the relationships being shallow, I don't agree at all. Sure, maybe Charlotte's is, but she is a very, very confused teenage girl, who has a crush on an older man. How in depth could that really be? As for Lou and Rachel's relationship, I love it. He clearly bonds with her kids and is trying to infuse some stability in their otherwise dysfunctional lives. I never lose my interest in this movie and I've seen it a bunch of times over the years. It's at least an 8/10 for me.
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