238. Parenthood


Movie: Parenthood

Release Date: August 2, 1989

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Steve Martin, Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest.

Tag Lines: “It could happen to you.”

“The director of “Splash,” “Willow” and “Cocoon” brings you a comedy about life, love and the gentle art of raising children.”

Relevance: In August of 1989 I was heading off to college for the very first time, so the idea of parenthood was far from my mind. In fact, so was the movie. I do recall seeing the trailer for the film and thinking that it looked very amusing and one that I would want to see eventually. However, the chaos surrounding the start of my freshman year in college trumped any trips to the movie theater. So this ensemble comedy-drama flew way under my radar.

It wasn’t until the following summer did I finally watch the film. The summer of 1990 was spent at home after finishing up my first year of college. That summer I spent working, hanging with friends and recovering from Madonna. In June of that year I got to see her “Blond Ambition Tour.” Second row. It was life-changing. My recovery included things I loved to do the most, basically lying on the couch and watching movies. One of those movies that I happened to watch via rental from Blockbuster was ‘Parenthood.’

I was already a fan of Ron Howard. I grew up watching re-runs of “The Andy Griffith Show” and of course “Happy Days” was a staple in my house right through the early 1980’s. Yes, he was “Opie Cunningham” to me, a name I am sure makes his eyes role. My apologies, Mr. Howard. Seeing his name as director on ‘Parenthood’ was no surprise as he was already proving his talent in that arena with a string of hits throughout the 1980’s. There are a total of five Ron Howard films on my list of most influential movies of all time. This is his third entry. (See 350. A Beautiful Mind and 275. Apollo 13 for the first two.) For me, his movies just kept getting better and better and ‘Parenthood’ became one of my favorites.

It was a beautiful, funny, smart film with a fantastic ensemble. It made me laugh and was also very touching. I remember watching it with my family one summer night and all of us were extremely entertained. My mother was taken by one specific quote from the movie where “Grandma” describes marriage and family life:

“You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster…Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!…I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

My mom’s response was “Ain’t that the truth.” As a nineteen year old “kid,” I don’t think I understood the exact meaning and just made a smart ass comment like “You don’t like roller coasters.”

I revisited this film at least three more times in my life. Once in 1997 when my only son was born, once in 1999 when my divorce was final and again in 2009 after ending a tumultuous relationship. At each point in my life, I laughed, I cried and I was thoroughly entertained. And more importantly each time I understood Grandma’s quote a little bit more.

Today’s Thoughts: I probably haven’t watched ‘Parenthood’ the movie in its entirety since 2009. I was however a huge fan of the TV show which was based on the movie that aired from 2010 – 2015. So I was still able to get my fill of the Braverman (Buckman in the film) family. It became one of my favorite dramas of all time and like the movie it always made me laugh, usually made me cry and entertained me for its entire six seasons.

So I was most happy to visit the Buckman family again today. And I am so glad that I did. It is such a wonderful film. From the opening “diarrhea song” to Grandma’s roller coaster analogy to the the Snow White school play, the movie had me smiling from ear to ear. It was interesting to watch this film at different stages in my life. A forty-nine year old married father of one sees things very differently than my nineteen year old eyes did. Life is hard. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

The cast is absolutely perfect. Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen are delightful throughout. Tom Hulce has an interesting role of being the “black sheep” of the family. It would be easy to dislike Larry for his actions in the film, but Mr. Hulce plays him with the right amount of heart that you can’t help but root for him to do the right thing. My favorite has to be Dianne Wiest though. She is absolutely incredible. The scene where her son, played by Joaquin Phoenix (using the name Leaf at the time), calls his dad to see if he could stay with him is gut-wrenching. Both of their performances bring me to tears. Cue the Kleenex box.

‘Parenthood’ is a funny and thoughtfully crafted film. The way it looks at the best and worst moments of family life is balanced with the right amount of comedy and drama to appease everyone. Although Mr. Howard will appear on this list two more times, this film holds a very special place in my heart.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Dianne Wiest (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. “I Love to See You Smile,” Randy Newman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Steve Martin (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Dianne Wiest (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “I Love to See You Smile,” Randy Newman (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s