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|Index||26 reviews in total|
Nobody seems to like this drama, probably because it IS at times very
depressing and downbeat...and the ending DOES tie things up a little too
neatly after going over the top melodramatically. But the movie is worth
seeing for several reasons. It's extremely well-acted by all (especially
Christopher Collet and a rare dramatic turn from Teri Garr)and the early
parts of the story ring powerfully true about the loneliness, confusion and
hurt that comes with being a family torn apart by divorce. The scenes
involving the kids and their friends and their dealings at school also feel
fresh and very real.
Solidly directed by Michael Apted, "Firstborn" is an affecting 1980's drama that, despite its flaws, will stay with you long after you see it.
When I was a kid, I always enjoyed watching movies and TV shows about
screwed-up youth, and this did the trick nicely. Christopher Collett (who,
at the time, cornered the market in 'abused offspring' roles - remember
RIGHT TO KILL?), Teri Garr and Peter Weller are superb as the dysfunctional
family unit from Hell, and despite the film's tendency to go off the rails
and slip into DEATH WISH-style melodramatics (especially in the deeply
unpleasant climactic 'payback' scenes), FIRSTBORN is a largely credible and
believable glimpse into the hopelessness of a bad situation. I could
definitely relate to the on-off battle between Collett and his abusive,
smart-alec 'lightweight' of an English teacher, having gone through similar
trials myself. And after hearing the Physical Education instructor's
chilling lecture, I always dry myself off properly after taking a
Yes, I probably remember this film for all the wrong reasons, but I'd love to see it again; as I recall, it was a late-night offering on the BBC in the late eighties, and it's probably been deemed too traumatic to repeat. Please, someone issue it as a budget-range VHS!
First Born is good psychological exploration in the various signs of
breakdown of kids dealing with tough family situations. Here,
Christopher Collet (Prayer of the Rollerboys) is Jake Livingston, a
fifteen year old kid who lives with his mom (Terri Garr) and younger
brother, Brian (Corey Haim). And, things are fine for a while for Jake,
despite his dad going to Montreal to marry his girlfriend, leaving Jake
a tad sympathetic of his still single mother. But things quickly fall
apart when his mom's new boyfriend, Sam (Peter Weller), enters the
picture, and eventually moves in. While his mom has dated in the past,
there is something about Sam that neither Jake nor Brian can tolerate.
They can't figure out what their mother sees in this guy.
Sam is kind of a flake. He never gives too much information about his past. The longer that Sam stays, the worse things become. He starts getting violent towards the boy, he starts bringing drugs into the house, and Jake's mother eventually starts falling into the same dangerous patterns as Sam while neglecting her own boys who plead with her to realize what Sam is really all about. For the first born, Jake, this is not something he can ignore, and has the responsibility of finding a way to protect himself, his brother, and most of all, his mother.
This movie presents the kind of psychological breakdown kids may go through when faced with serious family issues. Before Sam arrived, Jake was a funny, easy going kid. He was a good student and spent a lot of time with his friends (one of whom was played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker). Afterwards, both his and Brian's attitudes change for the worse. Jake becomes considerably thinner, irritable, and starts slacking academically. Likewise, Brian starts getting into a lot of fights in the schoolyard, beating up the kids he know he can win fights against. Plus, he hates coming home, and when he does, he spend much of the time locked in his room. It is a good film, too, to teach of the warning signs to parents, teachers, counselors, and so forth (Jake's dad couldn't be suspicious of anything was going on because he wasn't there to witness the changes in his sons).
I wish Christopher Collet had been in more movies. He appears again with Haim about six years later or so in the sci-fi movie, Prayer of the Rollerboys.
This has always been one of my favorite films. It is very well acted, with great performances from Peter Weller, Terri Garr, and especially Christopher Collet (I would have expected to see more acting credits for him). I really like its unflinching look at the consequences of divorce, from the sadness of the kids to the vulnerability of the mother. Look for a young Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Downey Jr., and Corey Haim in supporting roles.
Wendy(Garr) is a single mom raising two boys, Jake(Collett) and
Brian(Haim). After seeing that her ex-husband has moved on in his life
she gets in a relationship with Sam(Weller).
At first Sam seems to be a nice guy, but that soon changes. He keeps coming up with different ways to make money but never follows through. He moves in with the family way too soon and even starts helping himself to the boys belongings. He invites shady looking friends to the house late at night to have Coke parties and starts to become verbally abusive to all and physically abusive to Wendy. She keeps telling the boys that Sam is trying and to be patient but the stress of this affects the boys as well.
Jake is a great student, athletic and fun-loving. As the stress keeps welling up in him it causes problems in his relationship with his girlfriend Lisa(Jessica-Parker). He becomes verbally abusive to his friends and more aggressive on the Lacrosse field. Up to this point he has been tolerant of his self absorbed, egomaniac teacher but even starts to become defiant with him as well.
Brian avoids home as much as he can and keeps getting into bad fights in school.
When Jake discovers that Sam is trafficking drugs through the house he has finally had enough and takes it upon himself to make a stand.
This movie is a great example of how a bad relationship can cause stress on more than two lives. Stress becomes a trickle down effect and can be very damaging especially to young lives.
This is another movie about the ramifications of addictions and though
it's not "Leaving Las Vegeas" the movie is still welldone and draws you
in(it was a book to). It also offers a fresh perspective surprisingly
rare for movies of this type-addiction as seen through the eyes-not of
the lover or parent-but of the child. In THIS story it's the mother in
the family who is problematic-especially when the mother's new
boyfriend enters the picture and starts a destructive chain of events.
As in most stories of this genre don't expect sweetness and light. It's a good story to see though and one many may relate too. The book is equally as welldone.
Firstborn has been one of my favorite films since its release. It has a terrific script and fine performances by all the actors. I have worked with children as an educational therapist and have known many students who had step-parents that were abusive. Even a second cousin of mine has brought boyfriends into her home to live who would make Peter Weller's character look saintly by comparison. Teri Garr, like many deserted or divorced mothers, becomes flattered by the attention she is getting from Peter Weller, and their obvious sexual bonding makes it easy for her to overlook the potential harm to her children that moving him in might cause. While many critics didn't like that the film adds drug use about midway through, this too is more common than many think. This was Corey Haim's first film, and his reaction early on when learning that his dad is getting remarried, shows what a fine actor he was. I am so glad I have the VHS tape and have put a cable copy on a home DVD. If you like serious family drama, do yourself a favor and try to find a VHS tape to rent or buy. It is a heart wrenching but ultimately satisfying movie, and you get to watch early performances by Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Junior. The director, Michael Apted, should be very proud. It richly deserves a DVD release. (Update 2012: Firstborn has finally been made available on DVD).
This is not, nor was it intended to be, a happy movie.
Wendy, (a great performance by Teri Garr), is a very lonely and extremely vulnerable divorced Mother of two boys. She is wooed and won by Sam, (Peter Weller), a great guy and perfect husband/father replacement. Wendy's oldest son, Jake, discovers a secret which Wendy chooses to downplay rather than jeopardize her relationship with Sam.
What should Jake do?
Not all life situations are happy situations. The script is a strong and realistic rendering of a very believable situation. For a happy movie, I recommend "Mary Poppins".
If you're an 80's film buff, you couldn't ask for anything better than Firstborn. Peter Weller being creepier than creepy, Cory Haim being earnest, Sarah Jessica Parker being mousy, and Teri Garr addicted to coke. Does it get any better? I found the film looking for more Christopher Collet flicks (he's the dreamy 13-year-old Paul of Sleepaway Camp), and he knocks this role out of the park as an engaging and increasingly troubled teen trying to keep his family together. Though the subject matter is a little heavy, Apted keeps you riveted, and Firstborn proves itself to be a heartfelt and endearing look at a family ripped apart. Not only is this Corey Haim's first film, but the entire cast is outstanding. Do yourself a favor and see it.
Probably the most maligned character in the history of fiction-writing
is the step-parent or prospective step-parent. From fairy tales of old
to major motion pictures, step-parents are almost always depicted as
uncaring, violence-prone, inheritance-stealing interlopers. With this
constantly shoved down our throats, is it any wonder that real life
step-parents have such a hard time of it? There are many films that I
could have made that comment about, but I chose FIRST BORN because it
takes its offensive premise even further! In this one, mom (Teri Garr)
is depicted as a weak-willed imbecile, so desperate for a man she will
even start taking drugs for one. The film also once again gives us the
old stereotype that parents and children of the opposite sex cannot, or
should not, have intelligent discussions about important "adult"
things. The dialogue between Teri Garr and her son is beyond banal.
FIRST BORN is an ugly, unpleasant misfire. Virtually the exact same plot was handled much better in LET NO MAN WRITE MY EPITAPH (1960).
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