[Last Film I Saw] Mermaids (1990)


Title: Mermaids
Year: 1990
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Richard Benjamin
Patty Dann
June Roberts
Music: Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography: Howard Atherton
Winona Ryder
Bob Hoskins
Christina Ricci
Michael Schoeffling
Dossy Peabody
Caroline McWilliams
Rating: 6.1/10

I’m conquering another Cher’s film, perhaps her lesser-known one, MERMAIDS sets up in the 1960s with an unorthodox pair of a middle-age single mother and her adolescent daughter, both try to manage their lives in their own ways (dealing with the conundrum with men is a befuddling task for both), also attenuates the accruing conflicts between them. The film is directed by actor-turn-director hack Richard Benjamin and the overall reception is a sloppy sentimental piece of essay on woman’s independence and religious ambivalence.

The story goes smoothly with an occasionally witty, but otherwise run-of-the-mill narrative (the highlight for me is the “ocean in the room time” which effectually casts a genuine uplift upon me), Cher seems to steer onto a more restrained way of acting to manifest her “modern new woman” pioneer archetype, unwed mother with 2 children, casually flirting with men, sleeping with men and taking on a not-so-serious relationship with Bob Hoskins (a deliberate set with a jarring comparison). But this time, the film’s saving grace is not from their adult cast (considering a considerately miscast Michael Schoeffling as the handsome but rather stiff love interest of Ryder), but two young starlets, Ryder and Ricci.

Ryder has her own “terms of endearment” moments near the finale, a mutual emotional burst with Cher, and most of the time she is the leading role or at least the co-leads (ironically Golden Globe thought hers is a supporting role, a typical discrimination still prevailing now towards the young talents). Her incessant voiceover of a young girl’s world inward is the driving force to propel the film and its audience into the (now) somewhat dated world-of-view in those days. Ricci is simply endearing as the “young mermaid/swimmer” sister, there is a soppy point one dreads her safety during the drowning accident, and labelled as a comedy-drama, the film dares not to risk dragging itself into a self-reprimand moral abyss which could sabotage all the generic concoctions it has achieved.


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