Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1989
Directed by
Ron Howard
124 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Parenthood catalogues all manner of everyday family issues without probing any of them particularly deeply to the general purpose of reassuring us that, after all the ups and down, life is pretty good. It’s lightweight and glib but it’s the kind of film that Hollywood knows how to make well: the characterisations are engaging, the observations often acute and the cast is excellent.

As the title indicates the issue is parenthood, the undeclared implication being that this is the middle-class white American suburban variant of it.  Centre-stage is Steve Martin as Gil Buckman  successful businessman with a devoted  wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen) and their three children, the oldest of which (Jasen Fisher), suffers from an emotional disturbance.  Circulating round them are an extended family that includes Gil's father, Frank (Jason Robards), and sisters, Helen (Dianne Wiest) and Susan (Harley Kozak), and their families.  Keanu Reeves acts as Helen’s daughter’s disreputable boyfriend and Tom Hulce is Larry, Gil’s even more disreputable younger brother, a gambling addict with a black, illegitimate son.

The script checks off of a roster of quirky behaviour from teenage sexuality to obsessesive-compulsive parenting albeit in rather anodyne way by today’s standards (compare for instance 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine) but Steve Martin is in his element with this kind of mainstream material whilst Dianne Weist (who had starred in Woody Allen’s adult version of this, Hannah And Her Sisters) is, as always, marvellous as the solicitous but slightly desperate Helen

Director Howard comes from a sit-com background and this is very much the film’s sensibility (unsurprisingly it was turned into a sit-com in 2010). Enjoy for  it for the bits that work. Those that don’t will soon be forgotten.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst