Mom and Dad, which was released earlier this year, is the story of many things.
It’s a story of the suburbs, the perfect place to buy a home and raise your family. Nice lawns, big houses, friendly people, and plenty of buried resentment. It’s a place that can either represent a new beginning or the death of all of your childhood dreams. It all depends on how you look at it. Mom and Dad opens with a suburban mom leaving her newborn in a car that has been strategically parked on the railroad tracks.
Mom and Dad is also the story of a family. The Ryans may seem like they have it all but one only needs to look at their morning routine to see that things aren’t as perfect as they may appear. Teenager daughter Carly (Anne Winters) is dating a guy who she knows her parents dislike. Her younger brother, Josh (Zackary Arthur), is something of a brat. Carly’s father, Brent (Nicolas Cage), is stuck in a monotonous job while her mother, Kendall (Selma Blair), had to give up her career to raise two children who don’t seem to appreciate her at all. On top of all that, the grandparents (one of whom is Lance Henriksen) are coming over later for dinner. The Ryans are a family who spend more time looking at their phones that actually talking to each other.
Mom and Dad is also the story of static. It’s not just the metaphorical static that makes it difficult for the Carly to understand her parents. It’s also a very real static, a hissing and popping noise that suddenly comes over radios, pa systems, and televisions and which, for reasons that are never really made clear, fills parents with rage. When a parent hear the static, they suddenly become obsessed with killing their children. Kendall’s sister attempts to smother her newborn while a group of new fathers gather in the hospital, shaking with rage as they stare at their babies. Elsewhere, parents gather outside the high school, waiting for their kids to get out of school so that they can kill them.
As for Carly and Josh, they find themselves locked in their basement while, outside, Brent and Kendall plot their demise. What makes all of this particularly disturbing (and, at times, darkly humorous) is that it’s not like the parents turn into glass-eyed zombies. Instead, their personalities remain largely the same, except for the fact that they’re now obsessed with killing their children. When Brent and Kendall discuss wanting to murder their children, they speak about everyday frustrations. Brent wants to murder Carly because he caught her hanging out with her boyfriend. Kendall wants to kill her son and her daughter because she feels like she’s had to give up her entire life just to be their mother. The static didn’t drive Mom and Dad crazy. Instead, it just really reminded them that sometimes, children can be a real pain in the ass to deal with.
When it was initially released, the film got a lot of attention for a scene in which an enraged Brent sledgehammers a pool table while singing The Hokey Pokey and yes, it is a classic Nicolas Cage scene. That Cage goes totally and gloriously over-the-top as Brent shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. (For the record, I always enjoy a good Nicolas Cage freakout.) Even better though is Selma Blair, who is as subtle as Cage is wild. When Kendall talks about everything that she’s sacrificed to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s a poignant moment. She may be trying to kill her children but you still feel for her. Cage is, as usual, entertainingly bizarre but Blair actually gives the film some unexpected depth.
It’s a wild and deeply subversive film and definitely not for everyone. It also features a wonderful third act twist and one of my favorite endings of the year. Mom and Dad has its flaws but, for those who like a little satire with their horror, it’s definitely worth seeing.