Old Lady Movie Night Old Lady Movie Night: "Stepmom" Anne T. Donahue

It’s trifecta time! Remember when we watched Notting Hill and . . . oh my God, what was the other one. Guys, WHAT DID WE WATCH? I own it. I’m literally scanning my shelves now because I can’t remember aaaaaand THERE. Yes. Erin Brockovich. Remember? Remember that? And I confessed that when I was between 13 and 15 years old, I was OBSESSED with Julia Roberts and basically convinced myself that I would be just like her eventually? Remember? No? You’ve blocked it from your minds? Well TOO BAD because regardless of what we’ve seen and been through together, NO movie embodied the Julia Roberts I wanted to be more than . . .

Stepmom.

RIGHT? First off, she’s the “cool” mom (ish figure), who wears makeup and dresses well and works in New York as a PHOTOGRAPHER. And second, please see everything I said in the sentence you just read. As far as I was concerned, she was what an adult was. And damn it, I was going to be JUST LIKE HER when I grew up, minus the photography.

Well, spoiler alert: I did not. Which is FINE. I’ve made peace with it. But because it’s autumn and we just had Thanksgiving, and Stepmom is a movie for the autumn and also for when you want to literally weep, we’re going to watch it. Together. LIKE A FAMILY*.

*Or as friends? I promise I’m not yelling. I just speak very loud.

1. There are seriously NO WORDS for how badly I wanted to be Julia Roberts in this movie, though

I sound like a freak. I get that, you guys. But RIGHT? Hear me out. First, the VERY FIRST SCENE is of New York City downtown, and Isabel (Julia Roberts) (MY BEST FRIEND), is hanging in her LOFT apartment and she’s wearing SUPER COOL pajamas. Please know that at the time of this movie’s creation, I was absolutely only 13 and my pajamas were basically, I don’t know. NOT THAT COOL. But ahh we’re missing a very key component here.

2. What kind of a school has “purple shirt day”?

Seriously. I went to two elementary schools and two high schools and approximately zero of each had “purple shirt day.” Now I know that as of recently, wearing purple is to help promote equality, but you know when this movie was made? The late 1990s. And you know what that means? Anna went to some really weird, bizarre school in which you ostracized for wearing a shirt that wasn’t . . . purple? Or another colour? Funky hat day. Now THAT, I would believe.

3. I really regret losing my DVD remote

Full disclosure: I’ve lost my DVD remote control, so I can’t turn off the captions and they’re distracting me. I know this doesn’t have to do with Stepmom PER SAY, but it is absolutely affecting my state of mind. Also gross, the part where Ben just burps in the car happened, and no. Total pet peeve. I would kick him out of the car for real.

4. Okay, but remember how lucrative being a photographer seemed?

REMEMBER? First, she just asked for the “digital camera” and it is literally the size of a small farm. Now she’s photographing the catering guy without consulting anybody (which I’m pretty sure she’d be fired for), and then is all, “THAT’S A WRAP!” No. No it’s not, Isabel. Because I’m pretty sure you’d have to go through the client and the agents of the models and then you’d have to deal with the MALE models — who were totally snubbed — and, and, and, etc. etc.

But it’s a movie! It’s fine! Isabel is IN CHARGE, and if we’d like to re-visit my state of mind circa 1998, I thought: “Well that’s exactly how you act at work.” Only to realize now, as an adult, that is NOT the way you act at work. Unless it’s your business that you own.

5. Considering Susan Sarandon is actually the coolest woman alive, how weird do you think it was for her to play Jackie?

Because she really is the coolest. She danced onstage with Of Montreal for heaven’s sake. She is NOT Jackie. Jackie wears mom jeans and applique vests. Susan Sarandon dresses cooler than 75% of all of us, and would probably be pals with Isabel IRL as opposed to setting her up to fail constantly. So Susan, if you are reading this, you are one hell of a method actor. Because it wasn’t until I was old enough to differentiate between movies and real life (so last week) did I realize that Susan Sarandon is playing a character who she is not similar to in the slightest.

6. And a special shout-out to Ed Harris

Who I will always have a crush on because of this role. I’d go into detail but I’m distracted by how AWESOME HIS LOFT IS. (The loft he shares with Isabel. Not the loft he lives in for real.) (I don’t know where Ed Harris lives.) (Maybe he doesn’t even live in a loft.) (I’m digging myself a hole here, aren’t I?)

7. UGH. ANNA. SHUT IT DOWN.

Okay, listen. I get it, Anna. You’ve adjusted terribly to your parents’ divorce, and HEY. Understandable. But YIKES. Seriously, who responds to the gift of a puppy by calling someone like Isabel (MY BEST FRIEND, PLAYED BY MY OTHER BEST FRIEND, JULIA ROBERTS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH) a “dog.” I mean, WHAT?! My mom would have MURDERED me if I had busted a line like that out to somebody — regardless of who they were and how much I didn’t like them. I just have a lot of feelings, you guys. And I’m feeling really defensive about the way everyone’s treating my best friend, Julia Roberts.

PS. Where did the puppy end up going? WE NEVER SEE THE PUPPY AGAIN. It’s very bizarre.

8. And another SHUT IT DOWN goes out to Jackie

AND HERE WE GO AGAIN. It’s the scene where Isabel shows up and explains that she and Luke were busted hooking up by Anna, and now Jackie is trying to talk to her about it…? Anyway. So Anna is 12. And Jackie wants to have a sit down conversation with her about what Luke (Ed Harris) and Isabel were doing in the shower. Um… okay. I mean, sure! Have the talk. But at 12, did 99.9% of us not already know that sex was a thing? I mean, movies! TV! Songs! Literally, there is a song called “Let’s Talk About Sex” and we ALL sang it when we were kids. I’m not saying you have to be an expert in the mechanics, but COME ON, Jackie. Give Anna some credit, guy! SHE KNOWS WHAT WAS GOING ON (and she was grossed out by it because nobody ever — EVER — wants to think about either one of their parents doing anything but being fully clothed and like, working).

Also, what kind of a monster orchestrates a 6 30 a.m. horse riding lesson? I mean, Jackie means well I’m sure, but ON A SCHOOL DAY? Nobody wants to have time for that! Nobody wants to deal with that ever. Good GOD, Lemon.

9. Why isn’t Anna old enough to stay on her own?

Am I the only person who was 12 years old and allowed to be home alone? Also, I was babysitting other people’s kids. Which I’m sure wasn’t the best call, BUT it was the ’90s and everyone babysat everyone, so YOLO, you guys. But now Anna’s not allowed to be home by herself and instead has to hang out while Isabel photographs — aka goes to WORK — in the park? Why can’t Anna just hang out at her mom’s and watch Ben for the day? I’m actually legitimately asking. Is Jackie one of those moms who are super protective and who I will never understand? I think so. Especially after this scene I just witnessed where Jackie threatens to keep kids away from Isabel because BEN ran away at the park…? Imagine? That’d be like me yelling at my manager at the clothes store I used to work at because the boxes fell down. (“I’m going to keep these sweaters away from you!”) (I’m not even sure if that made sense — I’m still totally distracted by the captions.)

10. And maybe lay off Isabel for not being a mom, Jackie

Okay, so maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not 100% sure about having kids. Which is totally fair! I mean, maybe a long time from now it will be a thing that comes up and I’ll be down, but currently, work is priority one, and I can barely take care of myself, so no, kids are not something I want, thanks. And if it stays that way? Deal with it, world! Full disclosure: I HATE how Jackie’s all, “You are so self-involved” to Isabel JUST BECAUSE she doesn’t want babies. Maybe she just doesn’t want babies. Ever think of THAT? But nooooOOOOooo. If you don’t want children you are “selfish” and “think only about yourself” which is absolutely not the case. JUST SO YOU KNOW.

11. But surprise twist!

SURPRISE! This movie is going to break your heart. Just when you think it’s all about moms and kids and stepmoms and stepkids, it switches gears because Jackie has cancer and then DOESN’T TELL LUKE ABOUT IT. I’m sorry, but I don’t care WHAT my ex-husband (I don’t have one, I am just putting myself in Isabel’s place) wants to tell me: I am telling him my news FIRST because it’s more important. Am I wrong? (No.) Am I being unreasonable? (No.) And I get that Jackie thinks they have to cope with the idea of Luke marrying Isabel “as a family,” but SORRY, her news trumps all of it. Like, “Oh, well that’s nice that you want to get married Luke, but guess what — I got news too!” DROPS FIFTEEN THOUSAND MICS FROM THE SKY.

12. Then Ed Harris aka Luke proposes LIKE A BOSS

I’m not one of those people who cares about engagement rings or engagement stories. Engagement rings make me feel really anxious because THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS (!?!?) for a piece of jewellery just isn’t my bag. A., I’ll probably lose it. And B., could we not have just spent the money on a trip or anything else at all? A BAND I get if you’re actually married, but a bunch of diamonds? Not for me. BUT I will say that I love this scene SO MUCH and not only because I had — and will always have — a very sincere crush on Ed Harris. But because it’s just so lovely and real! REAL LIFE. It can be fun too, everyone!*

*For the last time, I know this movie isn’t real.

13. I never understood why everyone in this movie trick-or-treats in the day

Newsflash: I’m watching the trick-or-treating scene now where Anna is finally like, “Oh I guess Anna ISN’T the devil!” and Jackie’s like…”Yeah… okay, whatever, kid.” And it’s Halloween, and they’re out, and it’s DAY. DAYTIME. They are trick-or-treating at … probably, what? 4? It can’t possibly be any later than 4. What neighbourhood is this? Why is it being this way? Why is everyone home?! WHY DON’T ANY OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE JOBS. Sometimes I don’t answer the door before 5 30 p.m. on Halloween night ON PRINCIPLE. (That principle being that I’m not home, probably, and I’m trying to find last minute Twizzlers to give out.)

14. Love my Mom … would not love to see Pearl Jam with her

I get why it’d be fun for Isabel to take Anna to see Pearl Jam. I do! It makes sense. It’d be a novelty to go with someone who isn’t your actual parent, and they’re more friends than parent-child anyway, and like I just said, Isabel isn’t Anna’s mom. I mean, look. I love my Mom. My Mom rules. But I will never take her to a rock concert because that is not where my Mom belongs. And guess who knows that even more than I do: MY MOM. I am willing to bet $25295285 that Jackie doesn’t even LIKE Pearl Jam. There is no way she does! Isabel does ACTUALLY. So not only did you deprive Isabel of the chance to see Isabel, Jackie, you are depriving your daughter of an evening where she can enjoy herself without worrying somebody will mosh near you.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I love you. And I appreciate even more that you never took me to a rock concert when you know we’d have way more fun going to Chapters or eating breakfast.

15. I will say to never, ever watch this movie when and if someone in your family has cancer

For some reason, I always cling to movies that kind of reflect what’s going on in my life. When I was 16, my Nana — who was like a second mom — got diagnosed with cancer, and when I was 17, she died. Now, because I am a MORON, I decided to watch this. All the time. Constantly. And my Mom was even like, “Um… maybe … any other movie, Anne.” But NOPE. I chose this one. So you’d think my Nana would be the first thing that comes to mind when I watch Stepmom, but that is a negative. It is:

a) Julia Roberts, my best friend. And

b) This:

16. “Ben would be HAPPY, too.”

THIS IS A TERRIBLE AND EMOTIONAL SCENE. Know that I’m aware of this. If you don’t know this quote by heart (and WHY WOULD YOU), this is the part where Jackie has to call Isabel to pick up Ben from a birthday party because the chemo is making her so sick. So what did my friend and I do to stop ourselves from falling apart emotionally? We started saying “Ben would be HAPPY too” just like Jackie did… as she was FIGHTING BACK TEARS.

Listen. I don’t know why kids do the things we do. I don’t know why I STILL write that in my friend’s birthday cards, over ten years later. But I DO know no matter what, I am still obsessed with:

17. THAT HOUSE

She lives in a mansion! I literally have nothing else to say about it other than THI$ HOU$E. CHECK IT. BEFORE YOU WRECK IT.

More like MAN$ION, am I right? (No, but really, that’s a beautiful house. If you live there, please give it to me.)

18. There AIN’T no mountain high enough!

There just isn’t! Out of all of the mountains, not ONE is high enough, thank you very much. But also, let’s all just bask in the grandeur of Martin Gaye being forever commemorated in this very pivotal scene where they tear apart Jackie’s room and house, and dance harder than anyone I have ever met at any wedding I have ever been to. Ever.

19. What up, Thanksgiving pageant

Well here’s how to make me laugh: dress up a bunch of kids as various historical figures, and then have Julia Roberts explain that Anna is head over heels for Brad “The Flame” Kavisky. THEN have Susan Sarandon describe him as a “little s—” — only to have one of those dressed up kids think Susan’s referring to him or her.

Not convinced?

Throw two kids dressed up as the Clintons into the mix, and top with the following commentary: “What the HELL is this?” (asked by Julia Roberts). AND SCENE.

20. There is NO WAY Isabel would be fired from her job

There’d be a discussion, that’s for sure. I mean, it’s not cool for her to run out on her job and boss, BUT there’s no way she’d be given an ultimatum like that. There’d be a conference. There’d be a discussion. They’d chat. She wouldn’t just be fired on the spot. (Unless it’s going to be Stepmom 2: Wrongful Dismissal Suit.) BUT I also kind of feel like… really, they’re making her choose between her work and her family life? I mean, what if she had said, “Sorry, but I was going to get fired today if I left, so can you guys take public transit, please?” Would she have been the worst? (No.) I AM JUST SAYING that my mom and my dad worked, and I took the bus to and from school, and let myself in and would be by myself (for about an hour or two) until they came home. And that was fine! They needed to work. If I wanted food and clothes and a roof over my head, they were going to work fulltime. And my Mom is great! She’s a great mom. So MAYBE, Stepmom writers, you relax with the “Julia Roberts need to choose family and quit her job to be a good stepmother.” MAYBE YOU RELAX.

21. And then the scene with Brad “The Flame” Kavisky!

BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! I still wish I was that good with hurling insults today. And in front of a crowd, no less! Note how I am purposely skipping over the sad parts of this movie because otherwise this will turn into us just crying for up to and including 45 minutes. Instead, let’s focus on choice words like “the guy I see is in high school, and — it has to be said — he laughs his ASS off whenever we talk about you.”

I still try and make that work sometimes. But believe it or not, at 27, it has the opposite effect*. (*I’m kidding. I say “college” now.)

22. RE-LAX, Jackie, no parents are going to call home

Maybe I just went to a weird school, but nobody’s parents ever called anyone unless it was literally a swarming incident (that happened in grade six) (not to me — I was reading under the portable steps at recess at the time) or some kid burned down a house (which happened in grade seven). But over an ARGUMENT? No. Never. No one ever called to say, “Excuse me, but I heard your daughter called Brad “The Flame” Kavisky some bad words.” Nor would they. Who has time for that?! If you have time for that, tell me how, and then give us all some of it, please and thank you. (Like, five minutes, even? Ten?)

23. I hope Ben grew up to be Gob from Arrested Development

Let’s face the facts: Ben REALLY loves magic. He’s a magician. He grew up to be a magician. And the only other person I feel embodies all that is magic? Gob Bluth. So if time isn’t linear, and maybe there’s a parallel universe, I’ll bet you anything that Ben grew up to be Gob Bluth. And he is an ILLUSIONIST now, thank you very much.

24. Okay, well let’s just have a moment to actually bask in the pool of tears this movie has created

BECAUSE WHAT A POOL IT IS. I’m sorry, but if you don’t get emotional by the ending of this — which I totally skip over now because I just can’t deal — you are a stone person. You are Stone Cold Steve Austin. You are Stone Crock Restaurant (which is located in a town in Ontario). You are “Cold As Ice” (as sung by Gob Bluth in an episode of Arrested Development). You are Pebbles. You are … other words for “stone” in pop culture context. (Oh! You are “The Rock.”)

25. And we are going to end with Isabel ordering tequila on her last drink date with Jackie

We don’t have a choice. Otherwise, we’re going to descend into that pool of tears and you know who’s going to come out alright on the other side? None of us, that’s for sure. We’ll be mascara and eyeliner messes. I’m so close to getting to that point, guys, but you know what I’m going to do? Focus on typing this paragraph and NOT focus on that part of the movie where Isabel and Jackie talk about their biggest fears and Jackie gives her last presents to Anna and Ben. NOPE. Not focusing on those! Let’s focus on the fact that Isabel ordered stiff liquor on their bonding hangout which is probably the smartest thing anyone in this movie has done. BECAUSE THE FEELINGS, YOU GUYS. SO MANY OF THEM. THOUSANDS. #FEELINGS #HASHTAGS #WEEPING

But wasn’t that glorious. If you’re reading this sentence, like me, you made it out alive! We did it! We really almost did go into the glass case of emotion, but we did NOT. We are in a bright, bold, glass-free chamber in which we remind ourselves that this movie is JUST A MOVIE. And that, yes, Julia Roberts IS my best friend, but the rest? Fiction! Just a movie. A movie you should never, ever watch if any part of your life is similar to said movie. But okay! Horrah! Brad “The Flame” Kavisky, if you’re reading this, hello. You did a great job acting like the guys I went to elementary school with.

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  1. I f-ing love this movie. Also, I literally just said, “Do Americans trick-or-treat in the afternoon? Why is it ALWAYS daytime when kids trick-or-treat in movies?” I’m Canadian and fairly intelligent but Hollywood has made me very confused about American Halloween customs. So thanks for clearing that up.

  2. Just watched the “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” scene on Youtube and am currently, in a flood of tears.

  3. OMG! I’m so glad you addressed the no kids thing!! What is UP with that?! I’ve had and raised my own, but the man I’m with never wanted any, and his parents have told him (more than once mind, and completely SOBER!!!) that he is ‘selfish’ for not having children! He was just never convinced he wanted any (in the whole 20+ years we’ve known each other!) But The Fertile have no patience with people who choose not to procreate. Frankly, I can think of MANY people who have kinds who SHOULDN’T have had them! And those little stick figure families that everyone is putting on the back windows of their car…I’ve seriously considered getting him one: A single stick man with just piles of money next to it. And a smile on his stick-face :)

    • AHH! Yes. This rules. (And what is UP with those stick figures!?)

      Anne T. Donahue | 10/12/2012 07:10 am
  4. omg im so glad you did this movie, def one of my all time favorites! so sad and so awesome!<3