Movie Review: Parents (1989)

August 22, 2012

Every so often you stumble onto a gem because of pure boredom, anticipating nothing more than a vaguely amusing disaster as you pick a movie to watch from a wide array of trash. Knowing nothing about Parents except the cover art and brief Netflix synopsis, I fully expected the film to be just another 1980s cheap snoozefest. Fortunately, Parents didn’t meet my expectations.

Written by Christopher Hawthorne and directed by Bob Balaban, Parents follows Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky), a young boy so off that his teacher (Kathryn Grody) a “manic depressive” she wants to “put in a box”. There might be something causing Michael’s moodiness, however, and his parent’s (Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt as Nick and Lily Laemle) inability to explain what the “leftovers” they eat are, could be the problem! Parents is set in the 1950s which only serves to (successfully) up this film’s creep factor.

I can’t think of many bad things to say about Parents… Maybe if you don’t like weird films, that could be a knock — but I tend to like weird flicks, and this takes the cake as far as weird flicks go. I haven’t asked myself “What in the world did I just watch?” in a very long time, and in the case of this film, it’s a very good thing.

Maybe — and this is a very maybe maybe — Madorsky would be listed as Parents‘ biggest fault to film snobs. He’s the lead character and seemingly can’t act at all. Usually that would be a problem. There’s a reason Madorsky’s acting career consists of one single film in 1989. However, his inability to look others in the eyes, shyness, and general spaciness fits his character, Michael… Madorsky’s inability to act might be an asset for this flick as far as I can tell.

As an aside, Michael’s crush Sheila (London Juno) is very cute in an “F.U. Mom and Dad!” kinda way, and I dug the relationship between the two. Sadly Juno isn’t in the flick as much as I’d like, but I digress…

As mentioned earlier, Parents takes place in the 1950s, and as far as I’m aware the setting was recreated well. Quaid and Hurt did a fantastic job being a fake-smiling couple which you typically see in real photos taken in the 1950s. It’s very strange and it’s even stranger when bloody — almost psychedelic dream sequences are mixed in, stitched together with clips of Quaid’s character cooking “meat” on a grill.

One character which deserves special mention is the school psychiatrist, Millie Dew (Sandy Dennis) who takes a personal interest in Michael. Dennis plays the role very well, and comes across as a very stereotypical school psychiatrist, only in the 1950s and allowed to smoke in her office. At first Millie Dew isn’t that diggable, but the character grew on me and I really like that name — “Millie Dew”. It’s just fun to say!

The trick behind Parents is that it’s told from Michael’s point of view — recall that Michael is a very weird kid, and we, the viewers, have to choose what to believe. Did he dream about finding his parents having bloody sex? Was he imagining his father cutting up a dead guy to take home? Or did he really see that severed arm in the basement? In the end these questions are left up to you to answer, but no matter what direction you choose, Parents is a very weird, scary, thrilling, and weird roller coaster which I recommend riding.

Honestly, I can’t drive the point home enough, Parents is weird. I take notes when watching films, and “Weird ass movie” is one of my biggest notes for the film behind “WTF Links” (“sausage”). You will wonder what you watched after the credits finish rolling. Just an FYI. Don’t watch this when you’re in the wrong mood.

Parents can currently be found on Netflix for streaming, and I’m sure you can find it elsewhere if you don’t subscribe to Netflix.

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