It’s funny how old movies pop up sometimes. They seem to do it in several places all at once. There’s probably a good logical reason for that but I'm damned if I know what it is.
I was driving
to Dublin early the other morning and I had Marty Whelan on the radio, as I
often do when I’m early morning driving. Marty goes around the houses a bit and
he tells truly awful jokes but, man, he knows and loves his music and he always plays
a gentle but eclectic mix. So, as the show's new running gag goes, mine is a Marty car.
morning, Marty announced he would play something from Randy Newman that he hadn’t
heard before. It was the closing theme song from the 1989 film 'Parenthood'. The
song was called, ‘I Love to See You Smile’. Marty played it and was far too
polite to point out that it is, for all intents and purposes, an early version
of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ from Toy Story. For the later film, Randy seems to have just swapped in some
new lyrics and got on with it. Fair enough. If it works, it works.
This got me
thinking about the movie ‘Parenthood’ as I drove along. I’m pretty good at
remembering when, where, and with who I saw a movie and I knew, straight off,
that I had seen this one with Patricia as part of a Double Feature in an arty little cinema
in St Kilda, Melbourne, which only ever showed double features. That’s good rememberin’
but it bugged me that I couldn’t remember what the other half of the double
feature was. Maybe we didn’t stay for the other part. We did that once for ‘Days
of Heaven’ and ‘The Milagro Beanfield War. We only stayed for Days of Heaven because
I very much wanted Patricia to see it. But I digress. I think the other half of
the Parenthood feature might have been ‘Heathers’. Not entirely sure though.
that was Parenthood, on the radio. The end, right?
evening, late, and I’m flicking around some channels and, golly-gosh, there it
is, on RTE2. Parenthood. Maybe it’s not pure serendipity. Maybe Marty’s people
spotted it in the TV schedule and hauled out the music for it. I reckon that’s
probably it. Nothing fateful, nothing magical. But, still, you know… there it
was, on my TV.
what was left of it, which was quite a chunk. It kept me up later than I had intended but, sod it, it’s
how old movies pop up sometimes. But it’s also funny how old movies interweave
themselves into your life in such intricate and inextricable ways.
On the most
obvious level, Parenthood is a fairly run-of-the mill, pretty schmaltzy, late
Eighties entertainment, which allows Steve Martin to work through some of his better known physical and facial talents. It has a strong cast and it is almost unbearably saccharine
at times. But, at other times, it is quite spectacularly rude, in a funny way.
In among all the ‘importance of Family’ business, there are a number of gags
which seems to have fallen in from a much more adult entertainment. Recall, if
you will, the blow*ob and the vi*brator gags, both very funny. It has a sort of a 'Richard Curtis' feeling, where warmth and cosiness can migrate to outrageous cringe
at any moment and at the drop of a hat.
Watching one of these scenes reminded me that I had actually seen Parenthood twice before.
The second time was a couple of days after my Granny had died. I was home
from London for the funeral and my Aunt was home from Boston and we were all in
my parent’s house on one of those stunned, dull, evenings that you tend to get
after you’d bit farewell to a loved one. My Aunt suggested that I go and rent a
video for the grieving cohort to watch, just to take our mind off things and,
although it had been a couple of years since I saw it, I had remembered it was
a warm family film with a good quality Granny figure in it.
screening was not a success. The more edgy scenes went down like a lead balloon,
and were made considerably worse by my Boston Aunt guffawing her way loudly through
them. The parents trooped off to bed stony-faced afterward and my Aunt, still
guffawing at the vib*ator scene, reassured me that I had tried my best.
on this in the kitchen yesterday, I momentarily wondered if my Mum and Dad still
cringed over this episode as I apparently do. That was the briefest of brief
moments. In the next moment, I remembered, of course, that both Mum and Dad are long gone from us
now and any concerns they might have had over the screening of a
slightly-unsuitable video has long ago become completely irrelevant.
lies a sneaking sense of how movies manage to intertwine with our lives. That point seemed more
emphasized by my second rewatch of Parenthood on Friday evening. The film is all
about Life and Family and so it perhaps not surprising that it can bring altered resonances with it, when viewed again, 33 years later.
first saw it, I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any inkling of ever having
children of my own. My parents were alive and well, my Granny was also kicking around. All of
these things were natural and true.
later, that entire older generation has long gone and the sons which didn’t even exist
back then are grown men and are gone from the homestead.
In the movie
there is a young kid with some issues. A clear-faced cool kid. There is also a
gangly teen, swigging soda from the fridge door and angling his body to help
make his points. These two actors are, respectively, Joaquin Phoenix and
Keanu Reeves. River, brother and friend, was still around, forging his own stellar career. The
decades between then and now seem to have somehow shaped the film to fit the revised facts of our lives without ever
changing a single frame. It is our world which has changed.
as the elder male, had some of the best lines. At a kid's baseball game he tells
his son how a father is, always and forever, a father, no matter how grown the
sons and daughters become, “There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line,
spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.” That meant little or
nothing to me, back in 1990 in Melbourne, Australia. Now, I guess I know a little more.
I stayed up
to see the end titles of the film and to hear the Randy Newman song again, just to see if
it really was just Toy Story with different words. Well, maybe not just for that
have known better. RTE2 doesn’t bother with end titles. It just plasters up an
unforgiving ‘The End’ sign and packs you off to bed. Not to be outdone, I called
up the end credits on YouTube on my phone, held it up towards the TV and watched it
Yes, definitely. If you had asked me, I would have practically sworn that the
end titles also featured some outtakes from the film, but that was not actually the