There’s been a sizable (monumental) shift in my appreciation of this movie since my children came along. Before then I tolerated it. I even found it amusing in parts – a bit far-fetched but there was always Keanu Reeves to drool over when things got silly. Three weeks ago, Matt and I were channel surfing and Parenthood popped up.
Oh. My. God.
We were hooked from the first scene, laughing and cringing in equal parts as we recognized ourselves in Every. Single. Character. (well the adult ones anyway.)
Here are 6 reasons why this movie has totally nailed The Cult of Parenting (warning: spoilers ahead):
- The Opening Scene. How many of us have looked forward to a special day out with our kids – a football game or a trip to a pantomime perhaps? Something REALLY big and REALLY expensive. But how many of us have neglected to think through the aftermath? The overtired, whingy kids when you’re stuck a million miles from home. Too much sugar and excitement (i.e. puke). What about your own sheer exhaustion from cajoling small children through the event. Just taking the kids to the park is knackering enough for me. The expression on Steve Martin’s face mimics mine all too often. It’s the, ‘how will I make it through this without collapsing in a crumpled heap on the floor’ special.
- Comparisons with other kids. We hate to do this, we certainly don’t admit to it, but it happens anyway. In Parenthood one cousin is a child genius and the other likes to put a bucket on his head and butt things with it. The embarrassed glances between both sets of parents is painful to watch.
- Doing whatever it takes. Kevin’s lost his new braces at a restaurant. He thinks they’ve been thrown away. Cue his dad (Steve Martin) sprinting out of the door to root through the trash. Good man. I’ve been known to crawl around on my hands and my knees at Yo Sushi! looking for a My Little Pony squidgy to head off the inevitable tantrum.
- The Birthday Party. There’s nothing worse than a child’s disappointment when their big party doesn’t go to plan. Getting the cake right is hard enough – see here, but what happens when The Entertainment bails? If you’re a dad there’s only one thing for it… tie a couple of bath mats to your legs and transform into ‘Cowboy Dan’ of course. There’s no room for dignity when your child’s happiness is at stake.
- The Sacrifice. Being a parent means Sacrifice (note the capital S). It’s an underlining theme in Parenthood. Steve Martin gets passed over for promotion because he wants to clock off at 5 every night to get home and see his kids. Mary Steenburgen puts her career plans on hold yet again when she discovers she’s knocked-up with their fourth. Dianne Wiest forgoes her own happiness to be there for her kids when her ex-husband fecks off with his secretary. But this is where Parenthood gets clever, because it shows the upshot of this sacrifice too. The adults’ continued presence in their kids’ lives means that they get to experience all the brilliant stuff about having children as well. Which leads me neatly to…
- The Triumph. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie when Steve Martin’s son, Kevin, finally overcomes his crippling self-doubt to catch the ball and win the big game for his team. I’m not ashamed to admit it, Steve Martin’s OTT reaction made me cry. His son’s accomplishment means more to him than anything. That’s the great thing about being a parent. You get to watch your children smash through barriers and carve out their own destinies whilst you sit back, steer a bit (a lot), and enjoy the (bumpy) ride.
Can we have a sequel, please?