Mother’s Boys (1994)

Mother's Boys (1994)

Taglines: Some family ties can never be severed.

Jude Madigan (Jamie Lee Curtis) suddenly and inexplicably leaves her husband, Robert (Peter Gallagher), and three sons. Three years later, when Robert finally files for divorce, Jude returns and tries to reclaim her former life. Robert refuses and insists on the divorce. Jude does not accept Robert’s decision. She tries, unsuccessfully, to seduce him and harasses Robert’s new girlfriend, Callie (Whalley). Eventually, Jude manipulates and convinces her eldest son, Kes (Luke Edwards), that Callie is the only person standing in the way of their reunited family.

Influenced by Jude, Kes details a plan to his two brothers, Michael and Ben (Colin Ward and Joey Zimmerman), to scare off Callie, convincing them that it is just a game. As the boys debate the plan, Jude’s estranged mother, Lydia (Redgrave) overhears and confronts Kes and threatens to tell their father. Kes tries unsuccessfully to convince his grandmother that it was just a “game” and tries to stop her from calling his dad. A brief struggle ensues and Lydia accidentally falls down the stairs.

Mother’s Boys is a 1994 American thriller film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley (as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) and Vanessa Redgrave. Other starring are Luke Edwards, Joss Ackland, Lorraine Toussaint, Joey Zimmerman and Mary Anne McGarry.

Mother's Boys (1994) - Jamie Lee Curtis

Film Review for Mother’s Boys

Think The Good Son meets Fatal Attraction, with an Oedipus complex. Now here’s the casting twist: Jamie Lee Curtis, scream queen ingenue of late 70s/early 80s horror films as the *villain*. Give it a French director and some moody photography to make it look more respectable, and voila! You’ve got a bona fide hit on your hands, right?

Well, probably not. Mother’s Boys occupies that unfortunate middle ground between teen scarefest and pop phenom psychothriller, inevitably limiting its audience. It also swings wildly from the subtly creepy to the just-plain-dumb.

Kes Madigan (Luke Edwards) is a boy with problems. Never quite recovered from the sudden abandonment of his mother three years before, Kes struggles with his feelings about her and about the new relationship between his father Robert (Peter Gallagher) and girlfriend Callie (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer). Then, just as suddenly as she left Kes and his two brothers, Jude Madigan (Curtis) returns, and she wants her family back. Robert will have none of it, but Jude is more than determined–she’s sociopathic. As she plays on Kes’ emotions, she slowly turns him to her side, and to a plot to eliminate Jude’s competition by any means necessary.

Mother's Boys (1994)

Mother’s Boys is one of those movies where it’s easy to spend a lot of time picking apart flaws in logic, if logic is something you expect from your thrillers. For instance, it is exceedingly difficult to figure out how Callie, who says that she is 28 years old, has managed to become an assistant principal at an elite private school at 27; you figure she’d need at least one advanced degree and, oh, maybe a few years teaching first. I suppose it would have been too stereotypical for Callie to be *just* a teacher.

There is a greater stretch in credibility when Robert allows Kes to spend a weekend with Jude after Jude cuts herself with broken glass and accuses Callie. We’re supposed to buy that Robert is concerned about the upcoming custody battle, but at that moment any father would be more concerned about leaving his son with a lunatic. Then there are silly details like the Band-Aid which is supposed to cover the cut on Jude’s forehead, and “cliche alert” problems like the use of not one, not two, but *three* nightmare sequences. The script is sloppy in its attempt to explain Jude’s pathology, and the character development is virtually non-existent.

Yet for all that, Mother’s Boys still almost won me over on style points alone. From the eye-catching opening credits to the climax, director Yves Simoneau gives the production a smoky, dreamlike atmosphere which maintains tension throughout. The story is thankfully short on gothic excess, and I was pleasantly surprised by the twist to Jude’s plan. Jamie Lee Curtis is generally well- directed, veering into the overblown only rarely. She plays a particularly tricky scene, where Jude and Kes share a moment in the bathroom, right at the edge of comfort, where it belongs. Finally, it leaves Kes at a point of uncertainty, a rarity in films of any kind. While it may not have done much for my brain, MOTHER’S BOYS did get my skin crawling.

What disappointed me about Mother’s Boys was that I thought it made the wrong choices about Jude. As I see it there were two options: to have Jude ingratiate herself back into the family psychologically, or to push her way in by force. Once the choice was made to go in the latter direction, Mother’s Boys committed itself to being a thriller, and ultimately it’s not that scary. How much more interesting it would have been to watch Jude turn all three boys against Callie, be more subtle in her seduction of Robert, or make Callie want to leave. By skimping on the psychology, the makers of Mother’s Boys turned out a mediocre thriller in a very handsome package.

Mother's Boys Movie Poster (1994)

Mother’s Boys (1994)

Directed by: Yves Simoneau
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Luke Edwards, Joss Ackland, Vanessa Redgrave, Lorraine Toussaint, Joey Zimmerman, Mary Anne McGarry
Screenplay by: Bernard Taylor, Barry Schneider, Richard Hawley,
Cinematography by: Elliot Davis
Film Editing by: Michael D. Ornstein
Costume Design by: Deena Appel, Simon Tuke
Set Decoration by: Barbara Cassel
Art Direction by: David J. Bomba
Music by: George S. Clinton
MPAA Rating: R for language and for a mother’s sociopathic behavior.
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Release Date: March 18, 1994