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Mermaids

As eccentric mother-daughter films go, this one [from the novel by Patty Dann] falls into the same category as Terms of Endearment, with many of the same comedic pleasures and dramatic pitfalls.

As eccentric mother-daughter films go, this one [from the novel by Patty Dann] falls into the same category as Terms of Endearment, with many of the same comedic pleasures and dramatic pitfalls.

Set in the early 1960s, Mermaids begins rousingly, introducing flamboyant Mrs Flax (Cher) and her two daughters: confused Charlotte (Winona Ryder), 15, who is obsessed with Catholicism, and Kate (Christina Ricci), nine, who’s obsessed with swimming.

Constantly on the move due to mother’s vagabond ways, they soon relocate to a small New England town that brings with it new romantic entanglements. Mrs Flax takes up with a lovelorn shoe salesman (Bob Hoskins), while Charlotte becomes enamored with a dreamy groundskeeper (Michael Schoeffling) from the local nunnery, conveniently situated just down the road.

Since she’s unable to communicate with her wanton mother, Ryder’s dialog is largely limited to voiceover confessions and pleas to God, often while staring intently, wordless and wide-eyed, at her mother or Joe (Schoeffling), the unsuspecting object of her near-crazed lust.

The delightful Ryder, billing notwithstanding, is really the star. Cher is also fine as the cavalier, self-centered mom, an equally amusing if less sympathetic character.

Mermaids

  • Production: Orion. Director Richard Benjamin; Producer Lauren Lloyd, Wallis Nicita, Patrick Palmer; Screenplay June Roberts; Camera Howard Atherton; Editor Jacqueline Cambas; Music Jack Nitzsche; Art Director Stuart Wurtzel
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 111 MIN.
  • With: Cher Bob Hoskins Winona Ryder Michael Schoeffling Christina Ricci Caroline McWilliams