Tag Archives: Ricki Lake

Serial Mom (1994, John Waters)

Serial Mom gets a lot of mileage out of its concept–Kathleen Turner’s June Cleaver as a serial killer (actually, spree killer)–before it runs out of gas. Sadly, once it does, all of the plot problems become clear. But then Waters brings it to court and Mom is reinvigorated. Turner’s not special during the first hour or so, but she’s fantastic for the last third, when she’s defending herself in court.

Waters’s script seems incredibly fast and loose (like parent-teacher conferences being called a PTA meeting). For a while, he’s able to get away with it as he introduces all these annoying sitcom-esque characters for Turner to murder. Then he brings in two lengthy chase sequences back-to-back and it crumbles.

It doesn’t help the second one involves Justin Whalin, who’s simply awful in the movie. Waters can get away with a lot of goofy casting (Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords–Bess Armstrong’s in it way too little) but Whalin’s incompetent.

The supporting cast is good. Sam Waterston’s the hapless husband, (way too old for high school) Matthew Lillard is the teenage son, Ricki Lake’s the daughter with self-image problems. Lake’s performance is a tad broad, but she’s still rather likable.

Robert M. Stevens’s photography is good–he and Waters use a vibrant color scheme (Baltimore’s probably never looked so nice)–and Basil Poledouris’s score is fun.

Unfortunately, Waters’s closing gag ruins the film. He can’t seem to decide what he wants to do with it.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Waters; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Janice Hampton and Erica Huggins; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Vincent Peranio; produced by John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov; released by Savoy Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Beverly R. Sutphin), Sam Waterston (Eugene Sutphin, D.D.S.), Ricki Lake (Misty Sutphin), Matthew Lillard (Chip Sutphin), Scott Morgan (Detective Pike), Walt MacPherson (Detective Gracey), Justin Whalin (Scotty Barnhill), Patricia Dunnock (Birdie), Lonnie Horsey (Carl Pageant), Mink Stole (Dottie Hinkle) and Mary Jo Catlett (Rosemary Ackerman).


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The Business of Being Born (2008, Abby Epstein)

Watching The Business of Being Born, one has to wonder about the structure. It starts as an investigation into the way hospitals deliver babies in the United States (the responsibility is not entirely with the hospital, of course; the film opens discussing Manhattan mothers scheduling their cesarean sections). But the narrative changes course once director Epstein discovers she’s pregnant.

This development comes about halfway through the film, which ends soon after Epstein delivers. Given she’s not the subject of the documentary, it’s surprising how much of her private moments she includes. One’s never seen Michael Moore with his shirt off (I hope). But in the final few scenes, Epstein talks about working on the film and it suggests it may have gone somewhere quite different if she weren’t, you know, taking care of a baby.

So there are two films here. One is an inspiring, enthusiastic look at the connection between mother and child. It’s beautiful. Great music from Jason Moss and Andre Pluess–just a lovely experience.

But the film Epstein doesn’t finish is a lot more… useful. The startling rate of cesarean sections in the United States is something even the OB/GYNs interviewed for the film are mortified over. These same OB/GYNs dismiss the idea of midwifery and home births, which are statistically (taking the cesarean into account) safer.

The film is definitely worth seeing (even with an awkward, disconnected epilogue).

One has to wonder, however, if executive producer Ricki Lake affected her quirky hat obsession.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Abby Epstein; director of photography, Paulo Netto; edited by Madeleine Gavin; music by Jason Moss and Andre Pluess; produced by Epstein, Netto and Amy Slotnick; released by Red Envelope Entertainment.

Featuring Abby Epstein (Filmmaker), Paulo Netto (Abby’s Boyfriend and Filmmaker), Tina Cassidy (Journalist and Author of Birth), Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist), Ina May Gaskin (Midwife), Nadine Goodman (Public Health Specialist), La Juana Huebner (Parent), Gregor Huebner (Parent), Cara Muhlhahn (Certified Nurse Midwife), Michel Odent (OB/GYN and Researcher), Mayra Vazquez (Parent), David Radzinski (Parent), Catherine Tanksley (Midwife), Julia Barnett Tracy (Parent), Van Tracy (Parent) and Ricki Lake (Actress and Producer).


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