January 9, 2013

Mother (1996)
Starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds

Comments:  I read a great paragraph once about Albert Brooks.  It said "Sometime in the latter half of the 21st Century, long after most of us have passed on, the planet we knew as Earth, if it is still around, will discover Albert Brooks movies and make him the huge star he always should have been.  And they will declare MOTHER to be the greatest Albert Brooks movie ever."

And, well, that pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter too.  Albert Brooks is one of the funniest people alive who, for whatever reason, never really became a huge star in Hollywood.  I have no idea why.  He has just sort of plugged along for the past three decades, avoiding the spotlight the best that he can, and cranking out one great movie after another every five years or so.  Yet for some reason there are so many people out there who have never really even heard of him.

Albert Brooks

By the way, quick trivia fact for you.  Did you know that Saturday Night Live was designed almost exclusively around Albert Books?  Yep, in 1975 he was one of the funniest comedians in showbusiness, and Lorne Michaels wanted to write a comedy/variety show around him with Albert as the permanent guest host.  It was basically supposed to be the Albert Books show.  But Albert said, "You know, this show would probably work better with a revolving guest host.  You should pick a new person to host it every week."  And voila, Saturday Night Live was born.

True story.  Look it up.

And now we come to Mother.  One of the greatest comedy movies of the 90's, and one that again, for whatever reason, most people have never even heard about.  In fact, if you go to the Internet Movie Database and look it up, you will see that only 46 people have taken the time over the years to even write a review about it.  Only 46 reviews in nearly 20 years!  In comparison, Titanic came out a year after Mother, and it currently has 2397 reviews.

Mother is the story of a science fiction writer named John Henderson (Albert Brooks), who is stuck in a rut in his life and who is going nowhere.  He doesn't have anything to write about   His wife just left him.  He finds himself alone and depressed.  His books don't sell and nobody cares about him.  In short, his life is a mess.

So what does he do in an attempt to remedy this?

Why he goes back home and he moves in with his mother.

The storyline of the film doesn't really sound like anything special but man, this is one fantastic movie.  Albert Brooks' writing, and the acting by Brooks and Debbie Reynolds are just spot on perfect.  It is just one hilarious scene and one hilarious quote after another, as Brooks annoys his mother and she annoys him right back.  In fact this is one of those movies that I have watched countless times in my life, and I just can't pick out anything wrong with it.  It is the very definition of a nearly perfect movie.  And most of that is because Albert Brooks (like Woody Allen, or Quentin Tarantino) is one fantastic dialogue writer.  Nearly every single scene in this movie rings true and sounds like a conversation you might have with your own mother.

Eating 12-year old sherbet with mom

If you want "cute", you need look no further than the movie Mother.  Like I said, I have watched this movie so many times.  I watched it with my own mother.  I watched it with my in laws.  I have watched it with my kids.  I have never met anyone who isn't amused by it.

But it is more than cute.  It is poignant.  There is a lot of realism in this movie, much more so than you are expecting from the first couple of scenes.  Once you realize that Debbie Reynolds is a lot smarter and a lot sharper than she lets on, the movie sort of takes a turn and you just sit back and enjoy where the two actors are going with it.  And then when you throw in Rob Morrow as Albert Brooks' somewhat Oedipal little brother, it just turns into a masterpiece.  At a certain point they start battling over mom's affection like they are fighting over a mistress.  It is just too damn funny.

I don't want to ruin the movie for you, but there are three scenes in Mother that are among the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a movie.  One takes place when John goes home and his mother tries to feed him dinner.  The second takes place when they go shopping together at a supermarket.  And the third takes place when they are out at a mall together buying lingerie.  Again, they are just scenes that you have to see to be able to appreciate.  There is no way I can describe how awesome they are (the timing, the acting, the writing, everything) unless you see them for yourself.

Shopping for lingerie with mom

In short, if you want to take a chance on a comedy that you have probably never seen before, track down Mother.  It isn't the flashiest movie in the world, and of course it never really made much of a splash, but it is one of those movies that you will love and that will stick with you for a while.  You will probably even find yourself recommending it to your own mother.  Right after you explain to her how a speakerphone works.

By the way, this probably won't be the only Albert Brooks movie that I put on this list.  I have been a huge fan of his for years and I think that his writing is absolutely amazing.  And again, remember, Saturday Night Live was designed almost specifically around him.  He is that talented.

Oh, I should also point out that Mother contains one of the best parodies of the song "Mrs. Robinson" that has ever been recorded.  It is called "Mrs. Henderson" and it was actually sung by Paul Simon himself.  Yeah it turns out that Albert Brooks is buddies with Paul Simon in real life, and Simon broke his "no one can ever do a parody of Mrs. Robinson" rule just because his friend Albert asked him to.  Yeah, he never really became a big star, but even Paul Simon knows that Albert Brooks is a national treasure.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Mother

A genius in top form - 8 March 2000
Sometimes, from the endless stream of average movies, comes a gem, this is one such film.

Albert Brooks is impossible to beat if you're looking for character driven comedy, and "Mother" comes second only to another Brooks film, "Modern Romance".

Here we have the story of a science-fiction writer, blocked and fresh from his second divorce. It's the break up with this woman that prompts John Henderson (Brooks) to move back in with his mother, in the hope that solving his life-long problems with her will lead to the solution of his myriad of other problems.

The comedy is brilliant throughout. The scene in his mother's kitchen (food talk) is a contender for the finest comedy scene ever written. And the small things, that other writers neglect, are what make this film a standout: One example is the scene when Brooks' character is attempting to make a start on his next novel; it's truly hilarious, and any telling of its humour hear wouldn't convey the true laugh-out-loud quality of the moment, so just watch the movie.

Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds both give perfect performances as the lost and insecure son, and the unsure and uninterested mother, and their chemistry is unique.

An absolute comedy gem, and my second favourite film of all time; second only to "Modern Romance"

Not a single Oscar nomination? THIS is the crime of the 90s! -  20 February 1999
While it's disconcerting to realize that Albert Brooks and Monica Johnson were spying on my mother's behavior, they truly nailed her. And Debbie Reynold's portrayal of my dear mommie is flawless. What's that you say? You think it's about your mother? So exceptional is this film in writing, directing, and acting that it's painful to watch, both because it's true and because you'll laugh so hard you'll have internal injuries (you won't have to fake that limp). So, no nominations? Reynolds being overlooked is the all-time, "you've gotta be kiddin' me" oversight. The Oscars are a sham! What's that mom? You already knew that?

Albert Brooks' best film...no doubt about it - 9 March 2012
First off, to like Albert brooks' films you have to think like a Woody Allen fan. He is exactly like Woody Allen except he came after Allen 10 or so years later. His films are "talkies" or "conversations".

When I saw this back when it came out I walked out smiling. I hadn't seen it since then and so I thought I 'd revisit it and ya know what? I had the same reaction. What a wonderful little film.

Basic premise is a not very successful SCI-FI writer decided he wants to go live with his mother to understand why he is the he is...and why he doesn't do well with women (he gets divorced at the beginning of the film). From there we get a jealous/needy younger brother and a look inside the inner workings of...well....moms. Why are mom's the way they are.

In the end you'll get an AH HAH!!! moment when you see he figures his mom out. You'll go back in your mind and try your best to remember why your mom is, if not close, the same as Debbie Reynolds.

There are so many funny moments in this film there are just too many to list. First and foremost, Albert Brooks is most certainly a writer...and a darn good one. I enjoy all his stuff like I do Woody Allen's. Walk into this and prepare to pay close attention to the dialogue and get all the little bits and pieces of Albert Brooks mind.

I'm pretty sure by the end of this one, you'll be walking away laughing and smiling one after another

Another Great Albert Brooks Comedy - 6 August 1999
With "Mother," director Albert Brooks has given us another great comedic filmmaking triumph. The acting is terrific, the laughs come at a fairly steady pace, and, like all great comedies, it has an inner meaning underneath all the smirks and giggles.

Brooks co-wrote, directed, and starred in this one, playing the somewhat unsuccessful science-fiction novelist John Henderson (he's constantly being compared to Stephen King) who blames his problems with women on Mom. Therefore, he decides to move back in with Mother (played by Debbie Reynolds, whom Brooks somehow lured back to the big screen) and figure out their problems. What ensues might have been sitcom-style laughs, but Brooks and co-writer Monica Johnson know better than that; the laughs are pretty fast-paced but they are well-observed ranting as opposed to tasteless wisecracks.

The keys to the film, however, are Brooks and Reynolds, the latter which brings a special emotional undertone to a role that would have been played as all sap by any other actress. Check "Mother" out; if you want smart, funny humor and even a tad bit of drama, you should enjoy it immensely

Your Mother And Mine - 30 January 2004
Albert Brooks is one of the finest comic minds in Hollywood today and this is perhaps his best work (as a writer, I mean). He has chosen for his subject matter a story that most everyone can relate to, since most everyone has mother issues. In this case, his character has just gotten through his second divorce and, in order to figure out why, is moving back in with his mother to see where the trouble all started. See if you don't catch yourself thinking, "That's just like MY mother!" at least three times during the film. She can't work the machinery, she freezes her salads, she doesn't believe in brand names, she tells personal details to complete strangers, she can't drive, and, oh yeah, she secretly hates her son. The chemistry between aged film star Debbie Reynolds and Brooks is perfect, (not to say Freudian), the dialogue is brilliant and the characters are so real, they make you cringe.

Incredible Depiction of One Man's Coming to Terms with an Overbearing Mother -  24 August 1999
Mother is definitely one of Albert Brooks' finest films, in both the directorial and performance departments. It is a funny, touching, and sometimes frustrating story of a science fiction novelist, played by Brooks, trying to find the cause of his failed personal relationships by moving back in with his mother, played excellently by Debbie Reynolds.

Not a laugh riot, as it was not intended to be, Mother is a study in the relationship between an overbearing, yet non-attentive mother, and her distraught, hopelessly lost son. The performances are exquisite by all of the players, including the little seen Rob Morrow as the momma's boy sports agent brother of Brooks' character.

A true triumph for Albert Brooks and a little known gem, Mother is an unforgettable film which can also stand to teach a few lessons about what parents and their children give up in order to live with one another.

Highly recommended.

* My favorite quote from Mother:

John Henderson:  We're in the 90s, mother. It's fancy jam time.

* My favorite scene in Mother:

I can think of very few scenes in movie history that are as well written as the food scene in the kitchen with the "protective ice covering."  I must have watched that scene over forty times in my life and it will always make me laugh.  The timing and the acting and the dialogue are just perfect.

Mother at the IMDB

Mother at Wikipedia

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