188. For the Boys

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Movie: For the Boys

Release Date: November 22, 1991

Director: Mark Rydell

Starring: Bette Midler, James Caan, George Segal.

Tag Lines: “Laughter and tears. Tragedy and triumph. They lived it all. For the boys.”

Relevance: My mom was a huge fan of Bette Midler. She called her “Beth,” but despite getting her name wrong she loved her as a person, she loved her music and she loved her movies. I am also a fan of Ms. Midler, but I call her Bette. As I was away at college in my Junior year, I did not get to see ‘For the Boys’ when it was released in theaters. However, I certainly went out and bought the soundtrack for both my mom and me. It was a Christmas gift (for both of us). Our intent was to see the film while I was on break between semesters. Unfortunately, the movie received mixed to poor reviews and was a box office bomb. It disappeared faster than it appeared. So my mom and I had to wait.

Despite the movie getting not-so-great reviews, Bette Midler was nominated for Best Actress at that year’s Academy Awards. Although she did not win, both my mom and me were rooting for her. When the movie was finally released for rental, I did not run out and rent it immediately. I waited until I was home for summer break so that I could watch it with my mom. And that is exactly what I did.

My mom and I, because the soundtrack was still in heavy rotation for both of us, were very familiar with the music. We were only vaguely familiar with the story, so we couldn’t wait to finally see what we had been listening to for months. We were both absolutely floored by the film. It was a sweeping epic tale with the perfect mixture of comedy and drama as well as that glorious music. We loved both Bette Midler as well as James Caan, another favorite of my mom.

The movie was very emotional. My mom was not a real crier when it came to films. She usually would just say, “Oh, that was sad.” Never did a movie make her cry, at least that I saw. This movie came very, very close. When the movie was over, in a shaky voice she said how much she loved it and how (spoiler alert) the absolute worst thing for a parent to endure is the death of their child. She was glad that I waited to watch the movie with her. So was I.

Since that first time, ‘For the Boys’ has been one of my favorites that I have watched countless times. I am still a huge fan of Ms. Midler. I was so happy that my husband and I got to see her perform in “Hello Dolly!” on Broadway a few years ago. We didn’t get to meet her afterwards, but if we did all I was going to say was “Thank you for your talent” and “My mom is a huge fan!”

Today’s Thoughts: I get sad every time that I think about Bette Midler these days. I still love her and listen to her music (“Stuff Like That There” is still on my playlist) and I still watch her movies quite a bit, but when I see her I always think of my mom. Since my mom is no longer with us on this planet, I get sad. ‘For the Boys’ is already a Kleenex movie, but today’s viewing was an epic Kleenex movie.

Yes, I cried from pretty much the beginning right through the end of the film today. Did I enjoy it? I guess enjoy is not an accurate word. But with that said, I do still love this movie very much. What is not to love. It has a great story, terrific performances and that music is phenomenal. I dare you to try to not tap your foot during “Stuff Like That There.” It’s impossible. And Ms. Midler’s cover of “In My Life” is a tearjerker and I listen to that version more than the original. James Caan and George Segal are brilliant in the movie, giving powerful, heartfelt performances. But it’s all about Bette. She is glorious as Dixie Leonard.

I knew that ‘For the Boys’ would be a difficult film for me to watch today, but it is just part of my healing process. Nothing helps me heal better than great art. And ‘For the Boys’ truly is great art. I am sad that I won’t ever have to correct my mom from saying “Beth” instead of “Bette,” but I am grateful for the beautiful memory that this movie will always offer me.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Bette Midler (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Bette Midler (winner), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, David Grusin (nomination).

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

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