Parenthood (1989)

Every time one of our boys has spun around till he got dizzy and dropped (and that’s a LOT of times) my husband G. Grod said we should watch Parenthood again. We finally did, and he was right. Watching it as a parent is an entirely different experience. It’s full of cliches, yes, but they’re cliches because they’re true, and there are so very many funny/painful moments of recognition.

Interestingly, while the fashions and especially the hairstyles look twenty years ago, the basics haven’t changed–moms and dads worry about money and getting laid off, overzealous parents try to bully their kid into achieving, other parents try to deny their kid needs special ed, ne-er do well brothers show up when they’re not invited, and more.

Steve Martin is funny as the dad, but it’s not surprising to find he didn’t have kids of his own then (not sure if he does, now); he seemed to be straining a bit. But the movie is full of pleasures, like Jason Robards as the patriarch, Mary Steenburgen as Martin’s wife, plus glimpses of the very young and already talented Joaquin (fka Leaf) Phoenix, and Keanu Reeves.

One of the creators’ favorite segments is the roller coaster speech, since they show it several times in the extras, which were entertaining.

[Gil has been complaining about his complicated life; Grandma wanders into the room]
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Gil: Oh?
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

The speech is sappy as hell, and I’d dismiss it, as Martin’s Gil does in the movie, but on further reflection, I think it works for me. Parenthood _is_ like a roller coaster–the waiting, the tedium, the long boring parts seem to take forever, and the actual fun stuff happens so fast it’s gone almost before I can enjoy it. Even so, I like roller coasters, and for most parts of the day, I wouldn’t trade in my kids.

(But this morning, when 3yo Guppy was crying, then stopping, then crying, lather, rinse, repeat, for the most ridiculous reasons, I did consider calling the hospital and inquiring whether he was still under warranty.)

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