For those who read my recent blog/analysis about Heathers, you’d guess that I’m on a Winona Ryder kick right now. And I totally am. She’s a fascinating specimen, that Winona Ryder.
After Heathers, it was Edward Scissorhands for me but it wasn’t the first time I saw it so I can’t write out my initial reaction. Just two days ago, I watched Mermaids via a torrent service that was loaded up the @$$ with ads. I’m not sure I watched the complete version. It’s almost like the ads themselves were playing during actual scenes. I could be wrong, and I hope I am. Then again, if you torrent a movie on the Internet, you deserve all the inconveniences it can afford you. (You f*ckin’ cheapskate)
But the ads themselves only compounded what was already an odd movie-watching experience for me, the Psycho Lord Corey E. Toomey.
First of all, Mermaids isn’t actually about mermaids. The only relevance I found with the title was the main character’s sister was an avid swimmer and her mother dressed up as a mermaid for a New Year’s Eve party. There could be some symbolism that I’m missing. I could simply Google it and find my answer on Quora, but it wouldn’t change the fact that said symoblism was lost on me.
But if you’re expecting a happy-go-lucky comedy about mythical sea creatures, you’ll be disappointed.
The movie is about Winona as a devout 15-year old Catholic and her mother (Cher) who is…kind of the opposite. Cher is a freewheeling wanderer who is apparently mentally stuck in her late-teens and early 20s. The dynamic between her and her daughter is the movie’s stongest point. A common movie cliche is the clash between a rebellious, anything-goes teenager and their strict, authoritarian parents.
Mermaids takes that cliche and reverses it. It’s a deconstruction that is quite refreshing. The 15 year-old daughter is actually the strict parent in the relationship we see on screen. Well, kind of. You see, Charlotte (Winona) is going through puberty and her libido is taking form. She’s starting to feel that ungodly urge to procreate…with a guy 11 years older than her (!!!).
To add insult to injury, she thinks simply kissing a dude will get her knocked up (because hey, God snapped his fingers and made the Virgin Mary pregnant). The movie spends quite a bit of time belaboring Charlotte’s child-like ignorance on this subject. The structure of the whole story isn’t the best, but it still makes for an interesting trip. The premise is enticing, albeit maddening.
A sexually-liberal single mother essentially forces her two daughters to move around the country with her at the drop of a hat. They never settle anywhere to plant their roots because, well, the mother just can’t seem to find the right man. So she goes from one town to the other in hopes of reversing her fortunes, or simply running away from commitment because she’s afraid of it.
When Bob Hoskins’ character showed up as the father figure for her two girls, Cher briefly resisted the much-needed guidance and family structure that they needed. Cher made foolish, reckless decisions and her daughters were the ones that paid her price.
Watching Mermaids in 2020 may make you writhe for how it glosses over some uncomfortable subject matter. It actually frames single motherhood and pedophilia as bubbly comedy fodder. It harkens back to Heathers where the issue of suicide was displayed in all its whimsical “glory.” I guess Winona just has a knack for giving us a more palatable spin on otherwise dark topics.
If a 15 year-old lusting after a 26 year-old guy makes you uncomfortable, then that was probably the point. Daughters will take after their mothers. Kids will follow our examples, even if it’s to their own detriment. Every decision we make will impact them, for better or worse, especially when they don’t have the power to decide for themselves. We owe it to them to be diligent.
Does it make you uncomfortable because a 15 year-old girl CAN’T chase a dude that is 11 years her senior? Well, I got a suprise for you, pal: it happens. It happens when girls don’t have a father figure to show her the way and keep her in check. Charlotte sadly never knew her father because her mother wasn’t mature enough to establish a relationship of commitment in the first place.
I’m not sure I can call Mermaids one of my favorites because the direction is not exactly on point. Like I said, some of the symbolism with the mermaids wasn’t made clear. The relationship between Charlotte and the 26 year-old dude wasn’t given an appropriate conclusion. In the real-world, a relationship like that carries serious consequences and I don’t think it displayed that here. Characters need to suffer the repercussions of their stupid choices so that we, the audience, can learn from them and apply it to our own lives.
I’m not in the business of giving this movie a rating, but I will say that Mermaids holds the distinction of being one of the most unusual, unorthodox comedies ever created.