Sunday, February 22, 2015


(August 1989, U.S.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you now the subject of PARENTHOOD as written in two parts...


During a summer of blockbuster films that included Indiana Jones, Batman, James Bond, Star Trek and Lethal Weapon, it's a wonder that PARENTHOOD even got noticed. Perhaps it didn't. Truth is, Ron Howard's film career was still in its stages of being either cute (SPLASH), silly (GUNG HO!) or fantastic (WILLOW - I hated that movie!). He was still five years away from Oscar-worthy respectability with APOLLO 13 (1995). But like so many film makers in Hollywood, he felt he had something of worth to say when he himself became a parent in real life. This film was also the first time that funny man Steve Martin would prove to be the ideal big screen father, as he repeatedly proved in other films that include the remakes of FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991) and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (2003). While the film primarily centers around his own immediate family of the Buckman's that includes three kids, we also get to experience the stories of the surrounding family that include Gil Buckman's sisters, kid brother and parents. At its heart, PARENTHOOD doesn't offer any sort of specific plot or story line. It simply offers an inside look at what makes families tick and how they manage to get through all of life's joys, disappointments and idiosyncrasies. For those without kids (yet), it can also offer a glimpse of what to expect with as much humor as it can salvage. So what is parenthood? Parenthood is a life of "I have to" even when you don't want to in order to keep home and family functioning normally. Parenthood is dealing with a child who may be suffering from severe emotional problems and trying not to blame yourself over it. Parenthood is keeping that problem child's self-esteem at bay when he misses the pop fly ball that blows the little league game. Parenthood is the ecstatic joy and jubilation you feel when that same child catches the pop fly ball that wins the next little league game and makes him a big hero with all his friends. Parenthood is trying to keep your sanity while trying to raise two kids on your own without a father while your daughter is having outrageous sex in your home with a loser boyfriend you detest and a young son who's detached from you because he, too, is just beginning to discover a thing or two about sex, erections and what they mean to his life. Parenthood is trying to breed what you feel will be an exceptionally brilliant genius of a child and not realizing along the way that you're not only screwing up that child, but your marriage to your wife, as well. Parenthood is reaching an elderly age when you think your parenting job is more or less done but still finding that you have to make certain sacrifices (both emotionally and financially) to protect your gambling-addicted, fuck-up-of-a-grown-up-son from gangsters who want to kill him. Parenthood is constant worrying about what will happen to your kids tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, ten years from now. Parenthood is hoping your child will one day become well adjusted and maybe even be valedictorian of their senior high school class because you managed to do such a great job as their parent. Parenthood is fearing your child will one day become a crazed rooftop sniper because you manged to completely fuck up their lives as their parent! And finally, parenthood is taking it all in as it comes and just trying to survive the great big roller coaster of life as a mother and a father and hoping to Hell you manage to do a good job of it along the way. At least, that's how Ron Howard sees it. Whether or not you agree with him depends on your own lives as parents and your own kids.


My own personal history and experience with this film is best told in three parts. The first part goes back to the year 1989 when I first saw this film and took it in as just any other run-of-the-mill screen comedy. I was still in college and the prospect of parenthood was so alien to me, I actually felt that such instances and circumstances that I was watching Steve Martin and cast go through would actually never happen to me. The second part would be during the Summer of 2005 when my wife was pregnant with our son and I chose to watch PARENTHOOD alone one night. To be completely honest, it was during that viewing that I thought I was going to experience a complete nervous breakdown. Suddenly everything I was watching on screen that I'd seen before was filling me with nothing short of sheer moral terror. I found myself with the worst knot in my stomach and was actually thinking thoughts in my head along the lines of, "Holy shit! What have I gotten myself into??" and even "How the fuck do I get myself out of this??". Irrational and unreasonable it was, yes, but the prospects of fatherhood were still so new to me that my only reaction to it all from having watched PARENTHOOD was in the form of two simple words - fear and panic! Even on the day my son was born, I can't honestly say it was the happiest day of my life because I was still entertaining every possible question of "What if?" that fear and panic bring on to one's mind. The birth experience was not something I wanted to watch. In fact, when it was all over and I went home alone, I actually felt pretty freaked out about the whole thing. But then there was the day my infant son smiled at me and...well, let's just say he had me at that smile and has had me ever since! The third part can be now be attributed to just several night ago when I watched PARENTHOOD with a whole new perspective and frame of mind. It's nine years later now and the worst of my fears have subsided and I've learned to calm down a whole lot more. What's my secret? Well, I've simply weened myself to try not to worry about the future at this time. I worry about my son, of course, but I've found that there's no point in wondering and worrying about what might happen to him next week, next year or ten years from now. I've simply learned to take the roller coaster ride as it comes day by day, hour by hour. Is that the best way to embrace parenthood? Maybe not, but it's MY way and I think it's working...I hope!

So thanks, Ron Howard - for entertaining me, for scaring the living crap out of me, and eventually for making me feel just a little better about the life that is called parenthood! And thanks Sam, for being my son and my best friend in the whole world. This post is dedicated to you! I love you!!!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Larry Buckman: "Is that Grandma?"
Frank Buckman: "Yeah, she's still alive!"

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