Posted by: sarahmeyers | July 23, 2008

Film Review With Mom

I took the subway to the JFK airport where I checked in with Virgin America. I was twittering my travels on twitpic and lifecasted from the plane before we took off.

I’m in California this week visiting my family. They live in Mill Valley, a small town north of San Francisco, California. My mom and I are spending a lot of time together going shopping, lifecasting and watching movies. We did a live video chat on Justin.tv for about one hour where my internet friends were asking questions about my childhood. Of course they wanted to know about the most personal, intimate and embarrassing moments of my life. She told them about how I cried when my brother called me a “spoon bowl” at the age of 5. I admitted to being sensitive then and now.

We are having a great time together doing what I like to do and what she likes to do. She thinks lifecasting is fun, but says she won’t be starting her own channel any time soon. Both my parents have screen names on Justin.tv and come check in on me when I am in New York through the chat. They like to keep up with my life online. And they like to make sure I’m not getting into trouble.

When I lived in the small town of Mill Valley I used to spend time watching movies with my family. Watching films is one of their favorite hobbies. My parents have a large entertainment system which made that easy. However, ever since my moved to Manhattan a year ago I have not watched a single film from home. There is too much going on in New York to spend time watching films, I guess. I’m always running around and working so I have little time to enjoy the simple pleasure of watching movies. My mom and I went to the movie rental store and picked up “Where the Heart Is” and “Because I Said So.” We watched them together. Both films are about being a mom, parenting, marriage, growing up and dating so we could relate.

“Where the Heart Is” and “Because I Said So” are similar films because they both involve a relationship between single mothers and their daughters. In my personal opinion, “Because I Said So” is a more realistic portrayal of family life, however, “Where the Heart Is” comes in as a better film with higher ratings all around. Both films have interesting backgrounds that many women can relate to. Single mothers in poverty relate to Natali Portman’s character, Noblelee, in “Where The Heart Is,” because the film addresses the contributing factors to single mother poverty women go through. On the other hand, upper-class single mothers relate better with Diane Keaton’s character in “Because I Said So.”

Starring Diane Keaton and Mandy More, the film is a comedy that exhibits an overbearing relationship between the mother, Daphne Wilder, played by Diane Keaton, and her daughter Milly Wilder, played by Mandy Moore. In the film, Daphne wants the best for Milly. Daphne is a normal, over-protective and over-bearing mother. Milly is the youngest of three daughters brought up by Daphne and she has had a hard time finding the right boyfriend. Daphne wants her daughters to all be happily married and Milly is the only one left single. Thus Daphne goes online to post a personal ad seeking a mate for Milly with out telling Milly, she is trying to help her find a date online. Daphne may not know what is right for her daughter and seeks a man that fits her criteria for what she wants in a son-in-law. With an idea in mind about what the perfect life partner is, she meets up with men looking for a date at a bar and finds a successful architect who is also looking for a life partner. She sets them up without telling Milly what she is up to. You can tell Daphne loves her daughter and is just trying to help. But she ends up messing with her daughter’s love life more than helping. What really matters is that Daphne loves her daughter and wants to help and that message is clear in the film.

A large percentage of women in the US can relate to Daphne’s motherly position in “Because I Said So” due to a growing percent of single female-headed families in the US. However, the majority of those women do not relate to the social class of the family in “Because I Said So.” This is because their family is well established, economically sustained and does not show any struggles with income, support or welfare in the film. Women who raise children by themselves without the presence of a husband make up 30 percent of people in poverty in 2003 according to the US Bureau of the Census.

In “Because I Said So” the mother, Daphne had divorced her husband a while back. She owned a catering company that Milly works for so the family is able to sustain off of that. In “Where The Heart Is” Natalie Portman plays Noblelee Nation, a pregnant teen that ends up homeless due to a strike of bad luck. She starts living in a WalMart because she had no place left to go. It really is the luck factor that makes this film unbelievable. She plays the daughter of actress Sally Field, who plays the single mother that abandoned Noblelee when she was 5 years old. Now Noblelee is faced with being a young single mother with out any help from her family. Her mother does not care to help her daughter, after Noblelee gives birth to her baby in a WalMart, her mother comes to see her. She found out about the birth from reading about the babies birth in the newspapers and supposedly came to offer her help and support, but what she really did was rob Noblelee of the 500 dollars people donated to her and split. This portrayal of their mother daughter relationship is a saddening yet a powerful portrayal of family life.

Unlike Daphne in “Because I Said So,” Noblee Nation is a character that most single mothers can relate to. Like I said, the 2003 census report states that 30 percent of single mothers are living in poverty. This façade of the film is believable, relatable and a good representation of what it is like to be a single mother in poverty living in the United States. There are different levels of poverty single mothers live through and many factors contribute to their situations.

In the film “Where The Heart Is” Noblelee has an ambivalence to sexual activities that is seen in the second half of the film. From looking at statistics that make up single mother poverty it’s clear that Natali Portman’s character went through life circumstances such as teen pregnancy, boyfriend abuse and unintended conception that are contributing factors to her situation. In “Where The Heart Is” Noblelee, Natali Portman’s character goes through being a single mother in poverty and in “Because I Said So” the mother, Daphne, Diane Keaton’s character, goes through being a well off single mother with three daughters.

Both films have characters whom are white. There isn’t much diversity to the characters and supporting characters in the films. These are films about white families led by single mothers. The structural elements of the films revolve around kinship. Both films show the friends and family as an important influence in the raising of children. Both take place in the United States and touch on social issues around decision making and selecting a partner.

They are different when looking at the social class variations. “Where The Heart Is” focuses on a lower social class in the US. If we look at social stratification we see that “Because I Said So” portrays the opposite level of ranking. “Because I Said So” is about a white upper class family and “Where the Heart Is” is about a poor white family. Some may argue that showing the trials and tribulations of poverty makes “Where The Heart Is” a more powerful portrayal of family life. However, there are too many outrageous and unbelievable instances throughout the film that make you think there is no way it could be real.

I find “Because I Said So” to be a more powerful portrayal of family life because I base power on reality. In “Where The Heart Is” there is too much emphasis on superstition. In my experience superstitions are false. Noblelee claims that the number 5 has cursed her. She said that her mother left her at age 5 and that she was cut and received 55 stitches. Then, later on in the film, her child is kidnapped at 5:55pm. I find these superstitions quite unrealistic and unbelievable. Unfortunately, this motif carries on throughout the entire film making scenes hard to believe. It’s sad to see Natalie Portman’s character so resistant to love. When men try to date her she constantly turns them away and declares that she is making a life change by denouncing men from her life.

If I were to rate these films then I’d give “Where The Heart Is” 5 starts out of 5 because it is compelling, touches on important social issues like teen pregnancy and makes you want to laugh and cry throughout the film. “Because I Said So” gets 4 stars out of 5 because it’s funny, heart warming, charming, talks about important social issues and it’s romantic. I’d hold off from giving it 5 stars out of 5 because Mandy Moore’s performance isn’t entirely convincing. On the other hand, Natalie Portman’s performance is superb.

I recommend watching both films with your mother. They certainly are “chick flicks” that women, particularly single women, can relate to. If you are interested in factors that contribute to single mother poverty, want to know what it is like to have a daughter as a wealthy single mother or just want to watch a powerful portrayal of women lead families both films are perfect for you. “Because I Said So” is a more believable and powerful film than “Where The Heart Is.” However, “Where The Heart Is” has a well-written script with better acting and a more interesting story line. The films are similar yet different. Watching them together is the best way to see the variations in social class, their similarities and differences. As a female I can speak to other females and say anyone will appreciate the messaging in both films.

If you watch one of these films, or both, watch them with your mom. I bonded with my mom over these two films and you probably will too. Thanks mom!

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Responses

  1. I am definitely going to have to see this movie. Thank you for the review. I have been a single mom and dating for a little while now, and we single moms need all the support we can get. (Even from great movies)

    One place that I highly recommend for single moms to check out is a a wonderful site, the Single Sisterhood site. I’ve never found a site that truly answers my questions about how to find the love of my life! And the additional bonus is that the sign-up is free. :)

  2. I haven’t watched these films but i would like to watch them after such an interesting review=)
    I like film “Chocolate” with Juliette Binoche it is also a story about woman without husband with a little girl on her hands. Actually, the main idea of this film is not their relationships but their relationships with other people. Maybe is not so realistic story but it is heart warming, and I think everybody can get something useful from watching of this film! It’s a story about family that lives not like others.
    If you haven’t watched “Chocolate” I advise you to do this!

  3. *pokes*

    Hey Sarah, you still blogging here? It feels like ages since we’ve heard from you. Hope all’s well.


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