Wayback Wednesday: Mermaids (1990)

Cher is kind of like a mother to all of us, isn’t she?

I can honestly say that one of my favourite things about running this blog is reading the comments you guys leave on my reviews, Instagram posts, and tweets. I LOVE hearing your opinions on new releases, which Waybacks are movies you grew up with, and generally just shooting the shit and talking about movies with you guys. And on a more emotional note, the love, support, and compliments I receive from all of you is pretty amazing too. Thank you so much for that! And of course, I LOVE getting suggestions for Wayback reviews! That feedback is how I ended up watching Mermaids (1990) this week for the first time ever. I’ve been meaning to watch Mermaids for a while now, and it’s safe to say that I’m going to be watching it many more times in the future. If you ever have any suggestions for a Wayback review, make sure to let me know in the comments or @lukeslivingroom on Twitter and Instagram!

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 2.58.12 PM
Credit: imdb.com / Orion Pictures

Based on the novel of the same name by Patty Dann, Mermaids follows Charlotte Flax, a 15-year-old girl who moves to a small Massachusetts town with her carefree mother and younger sister. Conservative and often at odds with her wild mother, Charlotte faces the challenges of growing up and how difficult that can be when she’s often the only real adult in the house.

Do you guys know about Hoopla? It’s this amazing online service that partners with libraries across North America that basically lets you rent any movie your local library has on file. The frugal grandmother in me who loves the local library is OBSESSED with Hoopla, and strongly encourages you guys to check it out. Seriously, this is not a paid advertisement, but get into Hoopla. Hoopla is great for older, slightly more obscure movies that aren’t on most streaming sites. How is Mermaids, in all its Cher-related glory (oh, we will talk at length about the magic of Cher) not available on Netflix? It’s great! It also checks a lot of boxes for movies that speak to me: It features a trio of fabulous actresses, the endlessly quotable script is whip-smart, and it’s a ’90s coming-of-age dramedy that takes place in a New England state during Autumn. Which, as my review for Practical Magic (1998) will tell you, is ten thousand per cent my aesthetic. By the way, check out that review here.

For me, there were a lot of similarities between Practical Magic and Mermaids. Like Practical Magic, Mermaids has an overall sweet and comforting tone that makes it the perfect movie to watch in front of the fire, bundled up in cozy blankets. There’s an intriguing blend of drama and comedy that keeps you constantly invested in the Flax family no matter how serious or silly things become. The movie walks the line between really speaking to the everyday struggles of a single mom and a low-income family, while also being unafraid to be totally ridiculous and campy. That’s the kind of storytelling that I just eat up. Is there much of a plot? No, not particularly. But the writing and the acting are so well-developed and fleshed out, that the movie is nothing but enjoyable from start to finish. Mermaids does what only the best of coming-of-age stories do, and shows how overwhelming and embarrassing growing up really is. Especially with a mom like Mrs. Flax.

Okay, who else would kill to be a part of this little family? Dance parties, moving around the country in a pink station wagon, and eating hor d’oeuvres for every meal? Fuck yes to all of this! The magic of what makes Mermaids such a charming, effervescent winner is undoubtedly the amazing chemistry between Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci. And, to an extent, Bob Hoskins. What great roles for Ricci and Ryder. First of all, Ricci gets her film debut as an adorable scene-stealer, setting her in motion to be a standout in kooky ’90s comedies. By the way, check out my review for Casper (1995), here. Ryder on a hot streak that includes classics like Beetlejuice (1988), Heathers (1988), and Edward Scissorhands (1990), shines in yet another starring role. By the way, check out my review for Edward Scissorhands, here. Ryder is sensational as the neurotic Charlotte, and brings each of her insecurities, wonderings, and aspirations to life with ease. The two younger Flax women are lovely on their own, but it’s when they share that rapid-fire, sassy volley with Cher, that they shine. Together these three are a dream, and each cast perfectly.

Holy fuck…Cher…She completely owns the role of Rachel Flax in a way that only Cher can. So few actresses have true star quality and even fewer have superstar quality. Cher oozes that elusive superstar quality in everything she does. Effortlessly charismatic and enjoyably snarky, I could watch Cher act for hours on end. Oh my God, if you guys haven’t seen Mask (1985) or Moonstruck (1987), definitely check them out. Cher is phenomenal in both. Also, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) because she’s just unapologetically fabulous in that and I love every second of it. I love the words of wisdom Mrs. Flax drops throughout the movie – “a real woman is never too old” – and that absolutely nothing fazes her. She just breezes along without a worry in the world. Picking up and moving to a random town? Sure, why not? Finding a job? Eh, I’m sure I’ll stumble across one. She’s simultaneously a terrible mother and the mom every teenager wants. You’re kidding yourself if you say you don’t want hor d’oeuvres for every meal.

I’m not going to lie. I audibly went “awww!” when Bob Hoskins showed up. As Mrs. Flax’s love interest, Lou Landsky, Hoskins is as endearing, fun, and lovable as you’d expect him to be. He exudes romance through the simplest of actions and honestly, we should all be looking for our own Lou. He is a great romantic lead. He and Cher share an electric chemistry and I was absolutely rooting for them in every way possible. I couldn’t help but smile watching them together. You can tell that the humour and love they pulled out of each other’s performances came from a very real place.

I really loved Mermaids. I can see myself re-watching it again and again, and hopefully, falling even more in love with it each time. You guys, maybe Cher IS a witch. Maybe she has this power to make us fall more and more in love with her the more we’re exposed to her. Or, the much more realistic theory, she’s just a fabulous bitch whose entertaining as hell. Regardless, count me as a fan.

Have you seen Mermaids? Are you a Cher fan?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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