EINTKILFEverything I Need to Know, I Learned From ‘Stepmom'Jessica Tholmer

Told ya, suckas that I was going to hit you with a lil’ “Blue Christmas” because I just do not believe that the holidays are all merry and bright! There is a whole lotta sadness in the real world (because I write about the real world in this column, obviously), and sometimes, we just have to face facts and accept it, so you know what? I am writing about a sad Christmas movie.

(PS like my creepy picture of Julia Roberts sleeping? You’re welcome!)

And do not argue with me that Stepmom is not a Christmas movie because A) it came out on Christmas Day and yes, I remember because I saw it on Christmas Day because I was an awful 11-eleven-year old child who wanted to cry and think about mothers dying instead of hang out with my family(?) and B) if you guys get Die Hard, I get Stepmom. 

EINTKILF Stepmom
(Full disclosure: I do not have a stepmom, but I think they have bad reputations, so I am going to defend them a bunch, 95% because I have a whole big Julia Roberts thing.)

1. You can’t fall out of love with your kids.
Luke (Ed Harris – who, yes definitely, thanks for asking – is in my top 5 hottest people currently living) is hanging out with his two kids and Ben (Liam Aiken, cutest American child ever; I pretend we aren’t basically the same age IRL when I watch this movie. I want him to be five forever) asks his dad if people can fall out of love with their children. My boyfriend Luke says something super Dad-cutesy about it being impossible and Ben giggles, “Like Mission Impossible!” and then they get into a tickle fight, proving to us viewers that despite what you may start to think later, Luke is a great dad. He will never stop loving his kids like he did his stupid old wife. You can definitely fall out of love with wives.

I asked my dad if he would stop loving me if he died (I was a seriously dark kid, you guys), expecting him to say something super Dad-cutesy like Danny Tanner, but he said something really literal like, “You don’t have feelings after you die, so yes, I will probably stop loving you.” Goddammit, why wasn’t Ed Harris my dad? Or Bill Cosby. No, no! Steve Martin. Final answer.

Ew, I just did that thing again where I said I thought someone was hot and then wished they were my dad. Know a good therapist in the Seattle area?

2. Talk to your children before you get engaged and don’t involve lawyers!
This is like… the most ’90s movie of all of the ’90s movies, except for maybe Man of the House. This is basically the drama version of Man of the House, actually. Luke has been lovin’ on Isabel (Julia Roberts, the evil, but hip stepmother in question) for sometime now, who knows because all we know is that she is a billion years younger than he is, according to his ex-wife Jackie (Susan Sarandon, greatest woman. The American Emma Thompson, IMHO) who disapproves openly of his relationship with her. Because Anna (Jena Malone, girl, where you at? Catching Fire?! I’ll take it!) is 12 years old and it is the ’90s, has not taken her parents’ divorce well in the slightest.

I guess divorce was not as socially acceptable or spoken about in the ’90s, even though clearly everyone was divorcing all the time. I think that my generation should be known as the generation that helped make divorce acceptable. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. My parents are not together and it was NBD to me my whole life, but I guess I am a little jealous of the kids that wanted to get their parents back together bad enough to utilize fun pranks and touching moments.

every single movie in the ’90s had the same plotline. Every. One.

Oh yeah, the lesson here is Anna gets super mad when Luke tells her that he and Isabel are getting married because “nobody asked [her] if [she] wanted a new mother!” And in fact, nobody asked her if she even liked Isabel, because no one probably thought to because A) she should be obsessed with her new stepmom because she is Julia Roberts and B) you don’t really have to ask someone their opinion when they are really, really loud about it already.

Like…

3. Don’t name your dog after a woman.
Isabel, sweet, sweet young Isabel, attempting to integrate into this extremely stubborn family (even the 5-year-old is like, “If you want me to hate her, I will!” even though he just said he thinks she is pretty, but obviously this kid is loyal to his mother because he is probably a Leo because all fictional characters I like are Leos in my head, sometimes Aries) gets the kids a mighty adorable little golden retriever (the dog breed of the ’90s). Ben is stoked on it because he is a nice guy, but Anna is all, “Ooh, I’ll name her Isabel because I am allergic to you and this dog and everything else cool in the whole world because 12-year-olds are mean.”

And then they get into a fight because Isabel decides to start standing up for herself!  YOU GO, GLEN COCO.

4. Fictional characters named Ben are superior to all fictional characters.
Ben Harrison is probably the cutest kid in any ’90s movie, and I have previously discussed my ’90s kids mashup thing, but that only applies to sibling duos. If we’re talking just kid (cause Anna and Ben aren’t as close in age/adorable together as like Judy and Peter or Jack and Maggie), Ben takes it.

But really, if you want a guaranteed awesome person, name them Ben. For example:

Ben(der), Futurama — perhaps a bit of a stretch, but come on. He’s the best.
Ben Braddock, The Graduate – Dustin Hoffman. What a hunk.
Ben Franklin Gates, National Treasure – THE CAGE, say no more.
Ben Walton, The Waltons – the least annoying Walton.
Benny Rodriguez, Sandlot– hottest, best character in all baseball movies ever, also the reason I like baseball movies because it is way out of character for me otherwise.
Ben Affleck — not fictional, but so unreal he could be considered as such.

5. Singing cures everything.
When Ben gets hurt during his soccer game and Jackie and Luke are filling out insurance forms at the hospital, Isabel is sitting with him in the room and Ben asks her to sing him a song, because his mom always sings to him when he gets hurt. Isabel, so pretty and soft and kind (will you be my stepmom please, Julia Roberts?) picks the song “If I Needed You,” and actually sings well and so sweetly and then kisses Ben on the forehead. Unfortch, Jackie caught the whole thing and is totally feeling replaced, like when she inevitably dies, her kids won’t even miss her. GAH, AND THAT LOVELY JOHN WILLIAMS COMPOSED MUSIC STARTS AND THIS IS WHEN I CRY. The first time I cry. Once I counted and there are ten different scenes that make me cry, including the dinner scene at the end which sets me rollin’ for the rest of the movie. Like straight hyperventilation status.

Two fun facts. I have never watched this movie with another person beside the first time I saw it in the movie theater because this is the only movie that makes me cry ever single time. Ugly cry, not just watery eyes. Body shakin’ cry. It is so weird.

The other fun fact is the song “If I Needed You” is a Lyle Lovett song and Julia married him once, remember? That was in her “I am Maggie Carpenter” stage of life. She got married barefoot.

6. Brad Kovitsky, and all other pre-teen boys, can go out to the field and sit on it.
The bonding moment when Anna finally decides that Isabel is not trying to ruin her life comes when Brad Kovitsky (who definitely is trying to ruin her life because that is what middle school boys are good for) dumps Anna in front of everyone, calling her “Frosty the Snowbitch” for not kissing him with her mouth open. To this I say, stop kissing in middle school and also, good for Anna! I still don’t kiss boys with my mouth open because boys are the worst. Isabel takes the kids out to pizza and devises a plan involving an underwear model in order to get Brad Kovitsky (can’t stop using his whole name now!) back for hurting Anna’s feelings. It works, and then obviously Jackie is pissed because her daughter said “snowblowing” and she doesn’t even know what that is!

Ew, and oh my god, neither did I, still now, fourteen years later and I just Googled it and I think you should not Google it. So I guess I also learned the term “snowblowing” from Stepmom, but let’s pretend I didn’t.

Brad Kovitsky.

7.  How to propose.
But seriously, I told my best friend when we were younger that if my dude was thinking about proposing and wanted her weigh-in about how to do it, she should point him in the direction of this scene because it is the most perfect proposal ever.

And then I realized just now that he would have to tweak the verbage a bit because most of what Luke says to Isabel is about getting remarried, and…oh, who am I kidding? As if I’m the type to marry only once! Do you know how difficult I am? If I keep one husband locked down for a lifetime, it’s because I am holding him captive.

But really, Ed Harris, well done here. LIKE A BOSS as my absolutely hilarious fellow HG writer Anne says. (Because Ed Harris wrote this scene obviously.) Good metaphor, nice ring, Ed is only wearing a thin tank-top…and I love the thought of being woken up to a proposal, though heads up to any man trying to marry me: I’d like coffee with that ring because you just woke me up.

8. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is the greatest song ever.
See, Jackie is a cool mom, too! She knows all the words to Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duets just like Isabel! And she invented the moves, baby.

Susan Sarandon did invent the moves. All of them. All of the moves.

But honestly, when Anna points out that her mom is listening to “Isabel’s music,” it’s like, for real? Marvin Gaye is Isabel’s music? She is supposed to be younger and “hipper” than Luke and Jackie! She wears ugly maroon lipstick during the daytime! And according to my research (meaning my childhood), Marvin Gaye should not be classified as “Isabel’s music.” She should be listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana (’98–too late for that?) or I don’t know…Sade?

I do not know what is cool ever.

But this song is really, truly one of the best songs ever created in the history of time, rest in peace brother Marvin and sister Tammi. <3

9. You can say never.
Jackie
: I’m never, never going to forget this.
Anna: Never say “never.”
Jackie: Well there’s a loophole, you know. You can say “never, never” if you mean it enough to say it twice.

Suck it, Biebs! You can say never, Susan Sarandon just said. I have always loved this part (another crying part, doi) because in the beginning of the movie Jackie tells her kids words that are not okay to say like “always” and “never,” but then this adorable scene happens later and she takes it back because the real lesson here is that if you are EMPHATIC about it, you can say anything you want!

I will always, always, always love this scene. And I will never never tell Justin Bieber to suck it again. I didn’t mean it, baby boy.

Jackie also tells her kids that “hate” is a perfectly acceptable word which is a seemingly uncharacteristic thing for her to tell the children, but I am a pretty big fan of the hate word, so I’m in.

10. “Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Jackie tells Ben this when she is showing him a magic trick, but it could pretty much be the theme of the movie. Better than the slogan they used for the poster:

“Be there for the joy. Be there for the tears. Be there for each other.”

Sidenote: who writes those things? Because I have a real big issue with the fact that Titanic‘s slogan is “Nothing on Earth could come between them.” You know what? Something on Earth does come between them. It is an iceberg. It is an iceberg on Earth that almost literally comes between them. Who decided that should be the slogan?! JC, was it you?

JC = James Cameron, not Jesus Christ, though he is that to me.

I never, never (see my usage of a lesson here?) let things go. (That was also a Titanic reference, so TEN POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR.)

The movie comes to an end with everyone really happy and loving toward one another and when Jackie puts her arm around Isabel for the family picture at Christmas (yeah, the latter half of the movie takes place at Christmas, which is why this is a Christmas movie, FYI. Like Jumanji!), it kind of shows you that just because you can’t see something, does not mean it isn’t there. Jackie and Isabel love and respect each other, but you did not see that coming, did you?

I feel like every time I hate someone, I end up liking them later in life. Is that just a thing? Good for these two perfect women. I hope Susan and Julia are besties in real life. That’s what I want for Christmas. Lie to me.

…I cannot rightfully wrap this up without including the dialogue from my favorite scene that makes me bawl like a newborn baby every single time. When Isabel and Jackie are talking about their fears at dinner (this is when I start crying for the rest of the movie), and then it leads into Jackie basically saying goodbye to each of her kids? That scene with Ben??

Let’s call it 4b.

Ben: No one loves you like I do.
Jackie: No. No one ever will.

If you aren’t crying right now, you are a heartless ice queen like Anna!

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  1. you didn’t even talk about the scene with Anna and jackie at the end that literally makes me sob uncontrollably i can’t even think about it without wanting to cry! ugh!

  2. Thanks, everyone!

  3. love this movie, great article!<3

  4. Greatest proposal scene ever!

  5. I’m with you on the crying. Every.single.time. Once my roommate in college was watching this movie and I came home for only the last 10 minutes. Ugly cry. From 10 minutes. She judged me pretty hard, I think.

  6. Every Julia Roberts movie makes me cry. Even Pretty Woman, but this one especially. So thanks for pointing out all the awesomeness that is Stepmom.

  7. I REALLY liked your post! I’ve never ever posted before but I NEEDED to say that Isabel wants to take Anna to a Pearl Jam concert, doesn’t she?

    • Yep! Which makes it even weirder that Anna calls Marvin “Isabel’s music”! Am I right? I just think 70s era soul is not Isabel’s music.