Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Parenthood", the movie by Ron Howard, with Steve Martin, inspired the NBC series

The popular TV series “Parenthood” actually was derived from a 1989 comedy feature of that name, by Ron Howard, a Universal feature very much in the spirit of 80s family dramas (like “Ordinary People”, which had been one of my favorites).

Steve Martin plays the pseudo-patriarch, a sales executive who has just quit his job (he couldn’t stand being a huckster forever) married to Karen (Marry Steenburgen) who confronts him with the fact that she’s pregnant with their fourth child, by accident. “Women have choices, but men have responsibilities”, he protests. He even goes on a little rant about being expected to get clients laid if he goes back to work.

The extended family has a lot of complications, including kids in special education, and a brother Larry, who has tried to make it by gambling and is in debt to loan sharks.  The real patriarch is Frank (Jason Robards). Keanu Reeves (with chest scar) and Tom Hulce also appear. 
The overall theme of the movie is supposed to be what makes ideal parents, with an answer to the effect there really is no answer.  But it also shows the dynamics of the heterosexual family world that I skipped.

The film opens with a scene at a St. Louis Cardinals game, and has two baseball little league scenes, one with a dropped pop fly and later a great catch by the same kid after a collision in the outfield.  “A grown man’s happiness depends on whether a nine-year-old catches a pop-up.”

There's an early scene where Gil says to the family, "doesn't returning from Disney World make you want to throw up?" whereupon the daughter vomits all over his shoes.  Such is family life, "Sinfonia Domestica".

There’s another line about predicting whether a marriage will work: “I give it six months, four if she cooks.”

The film ends, of course, with a birth scene.  "It's a girl." The new babies make "a healthy bottom line."

The DVD has a long short "Art Imitates Life", where the cast and director talk about how many kids they have collectively and how their own experience as parents influenced the film.  The had to find and hire "writers".  Ron Howard says this is the most personal film he has ever made. Two other shorts are "Family Reunion" (with a depiction of the parlor game of "Wink", where you commit "murder" by merely glancing at someone with a stare)  and "Words and Music."

A great quote from the second short: "You can use comedy to sneak up on people, and say things that aren't funny in real life." And from the movie when Gil says, "When your kid is born he is perfect, hasn't made any mistakes yet, but grows up to be like -- me."

The film is set in the St, Louis area but was filmed at Universal Studios in Florida, well before the modern additions to the theme parks (which I visited in July). 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of new Busch Stadium (taken by David K. Staub) under construction,  taken by David K. Staub, under Creative Commons Generic 2.5 License. The St. Louis Cardinals is one of the best-managed franchises in Major League Baseball, good every year. 


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