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Amy Holden Jones
Jamie Lee Curtis,
Jude Madigan abandons her husband Robert and her three sons without any explanation. Three years later Jude inexplicably returns to reunite her family. However Robert and his new lover Callie see Jude for the true psychopath she is and try their best to protect their sons. Jude embarks on a non stop stalking and harassment campaign against the family, and even seduces her eldest son Kess into committing her acts of violence. Written by
This is one of the numerous " ..from Hell" movies which came out in the late eighties and early nineties following the success of "Fatal Attraction" (one-night-stand-from-Hell). Others in the genre include "Pacific Heights" (tenant-from-Hell), "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" (nanny-from-Hell) and "Single White Female" (flatmate-from-Hell). "Mother's Boys" controversially presents us with Jamie Lee Curtis as the mother-from-Hell.
Robert Madigan is a single father with three young sons. The reason he is single is that three years ago his wife Judith ("Jude") left him without explanation and disappeared from his life and that of the boys. Robert now has a new girlfriend, Callie, whom he intends to marry as soon as his divorce from Jude can be finalised. Jude, however, has other ideas. She reappears in Robert's life as abruptly as she disappeared from it and wants to resume their life together. When Robert makes it quite clear that he wants nothing more to do with her, Jude reacts with fury, mostly directed against Callie. Although Callie did not come into Robert's life until after Jude had abandoned him, Jude irrationally blames her for breaking up her marriage and comes to see her as the only obstacle standing between herself and her husband. Jude tries hard to win back the affections of her sons as part of a scheme to get revenge on Callie, even posing naked in front of her eldest boy, eleven-year-old Kes. (This tasteless scene, with its implications of paedophile incest, has come in for much well-deserved criticism. I understand, however, that in Bernard Taylor's source novel the incest was more than just implied. It will not be anywhere near the top of my list of required holiday reading this year).
The first part of the film is reasonably interesting, and could have been the basis of a much better film. The two female adversaries are well characterised. (Robert, the main male character, is little more than the prize the two women fight over). Callie, played by the kitten-faced Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, is the cute girl-next door type, far more motherly than the boys' biological mother. (She works as the assistant principal at their school). The home she and Robert intend to share when they are married (the film makes it clear they are not cohabiting before marriage) is a spacious, comfortable house in the country, made of solid wood and stone. Jude, by contrast, is played by Curtis as a seductress, all high heels, tight mini-skirts and bleached-blonde hair, glamorous but hard and brassy. By contrast to Callie and Robert's Country Living style, Jude is a metropolitan type, living in an expensively over-decorated city apartment in an Art Deco block. Her talent for alienating people is such that even her own mother takes Robert's side against her.
Whalley-Kilmer was at one time tipped for Hollywood stardom, especially after her fine performance in "Scandal", but never quite seemed to make it. Appearing in too many films like this one was probably the main reason. Jamie Lee, however, quickly bounced back from this setback; her next film was the highly successful "True Lies", in which she once again got to show us just what a fine body she had for a woman in her mid thirties. Peter Gallagher, as Robert, makes a rather bland hero, and Vanessa Redgrave, as Jude's mother, looks as through she can't really understand why she signed on for this film in the first place.
From about halfway, however, the film starts to deteriorate and declines into lurid melodrama. I won't set out all the plot turns, but can say that they become progressively nastier and more implausible. Anyone familiar with the moralistic vice-punished-and-virtue-rewarded conventions of this particular genre will be able to work out the broad outlines of the ending. If you want to know the full gory details you will have to watch the film itself, but I doubt if you will find them very edifying. Like several unsuccessful " .from Hell" movies (the more recent "Swimfan" is another example) "Mother's Boys" fails because it tries too hard to shock. 4/10
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