Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Jordan Hoffman
This weekend brings us two opportunities to experience either joy or frustration, depending on what kind of life you lead. That’s My Boy comes out in theaters coinciding with Father’s Day. You can either laugh yourself silly and get the ol’ man a tie, or you can sublimate regret and remorse for another twelve months – it’s up to you.
I’m blessed enough to have a healthy relationship with my old man (and Adam Sandler) but, lucky for those of us who like a little drama, contentment isn’t always the case at the cinema. Therefore, this week we take a look at some of the more interesting (and somewhat obscure) takes of fatherhood on film.
Paper Moon (1973); Peter Bogdanovich, director.
Adorable, hilarious and gorgeous to look at, Peter Bogdanovich’s best film (yeah, I said it) Paper Moon is a delightful and sweet look at fatherhood. And stealing.
Ryan O’Neal’s “Mose” may or may not be the father of Tatum O’Neal’s “Addie,” the precocious girl whose prostitute mother has just died. Of course, if you look at the last names of the actors involved you’d be right in thinking the chemistry between the two gets familiar. The writing, photography and comic timing in Paper Moon is all top-notch, but its true miracle is how it avoids being mushy. They really, really don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979); Robert Benton, director.
This film was a zeitgeist juggernaut, coming on the scene just as divorce was becoming normalized in American society. It was also revolutionary in its unconventional characters. While there are no real good guys or bad guys, the departing mother (Meryl Streep) isn’t played like a dragon lady and the clumsy Dad (Dustin Hoffman) is positioned as someone who MAY be capable of raising a child by himself.
The notion that the kid may not automatically be better off with his mother was quite a twist in 1979, but the movie isn’t so committed to its unorthodox position that Hoffman’s flaws aren’t shown.
All of this sociology aside, it is a funny and, at times, thrilling movie that paints a unique portrait of what being a “new, urban father” would be like in the 1980s.
Eraserhead (1977); David Lynch, director.
I’m guessing more of you have heard of Eraserhead than have actually seen it. Let me tell ya: it’s awesome.
Is it about fatherhood? Yes, more than anything else. But I thought Eraserhead wasn’t really about anything specific, man? No, of course it is – all the best art is about something. There’s a difference between being ambiguous and having nothing to say and being ambiguous to make you think. (Someone please tattoo this on Damon Lindelof’s head while he’s sleeping.)
After an awkward dinner date our “hero” is left with a screaming, horrible. . .thing. . .that he has to take care of. To quote Raising Arizona, “it ain’t Ozzie and Harriet,” but Eraserhead is a masterpiece of inexplicable, surrealist dread that’s an honest, if underrepresented, depiction of the thoughts of many new fathers.
Nothing in Common (1986); Garry Marshall, director.
Whereas Kramer vs. Kramer stars an ad executive caring for his son, Nothing in Common stars one (Tom Hanks) caring for his aging father (Jackie Gleason, in his final role.)
Believe me when I say that Garry Marshall, the man behind New Years Day and Valentine’s Day and, who knows, eventually, Arbor Day, wasn’t always serving up nauseating garbage.
The Hanks/Gleason pairing has all the yuks you might imagine between a hotshot kid and an his unsubtle, loudmouth pop, but by the end it manages to be quite touching. Sentimental, sure, but these actors really sell it. The film also acts as one of the better behind-the-scenes looks at advertising pre-Mad Men.