Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I will be taking a look at the heart-wrenching 1998 drama, Stepmom.

The film starts out with an equilibrium, narrating the lives of a divorced couple and their two kids. Even though it is not necessarily a state of harmony or a "peaceful community getting on with enjoying their life"as Rayner states, the still isn't any kind of conflict. The disequilibrium comes fairly early in the movie when Luke (the father) decides to marry his significantly younger girlfriend, Isabel, officially making her stepmother to his kids. Conflict arises when Jackie (the mother) begins to blame Isabel for her failed marriage and treats her very coldly, creating a lot of friction and tension throughout the film. When Jackie is diagnosed with cancer, this creates even more disequilibrium and makes it difficult for the audience to "choose sides." Up until this point, the narrative unfolds in such a way to make us side with Isabel and hate Jackie for treating her with malice. However, once we learn of Jackie having cancer, the narrative suddenly makes it difficult for us to choose sides since we suddenly feel for Jackie's character since her life is in danger while at the same time identifying with the struggles of fitting in that Isabel has to go through. What makes this so effective is the mode of address the film chooses to provide to the audience. We get an inside look at Jackie's struggle with cancer while none of her other family members have any idea that she even has cancer, offering "us, the audience, privileged information about what is going on" (Rayner). A new equilibrium is not really attained until the very end of the movie, when the two women bond with each other when Isabel when Isabel reveals her admiration of Jackie's maternal instrincts, while Jackie in turn compliments Isabel's hipness as a means to connect with, Anna (the daughter). Isabel finally lets her guard down when she tearfully tells Jackie her biggest fear is that on Anna's wedding day, all Anna will wish for is her mother's presence. Jackie admits her own fear of her daughter forgetting her. The movie ends with Isabel taking a family picture of Luke and Jackie with their children. Jackie invites Isabel to get into the shot, which she does, and as the closing credits begin, both women are shown in a photo side by side, finally at peace with one another and future events, thus creating a new equilibrium.

1 comment:

  1. aaah...
    I absolutely love this movie
    I'm such a sucker...
    I cry EVERY TIME I watch it.
    Love it!