June 25, 2018  (Web Review)

Mermaids

Olive, 110 min., PG-13, DVD: $14.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Cher and Winona Ryder play mother and daughter in this 1963-set nostalgic 1990 comic drama about an unconventional family based on the 1986 novel by Patty Dann. Teenage Charlotte (Ryder), who narrates the film, is frustrated that her mother (who she refers to as “Mrs. Flax”) keeps getting involved with married men and then uprooting the family to move to a new town when those romances blow up. She rebels by embracing Catholic saints and idolizing nuns, despite the fact that the family is Jewish, and she is thrilled that their new Massachusetts home is just down the hill from a convent. But her determination to lead a holy life is challenged when she falls for handsome neighbor Joe (Michael Schoeffling). Mom, meanwhile, is wooed by Lou (Bob Hoskins), a shoe salesman who embraces her entire family and gives Charlotte the hope of stability. As he becomes a part of their life, however, Mom becomes wary of emotional commitment and her flight instincts start to emerge again. This is a sweet if familiar tale, part eccentric family comedy (Mom’s meals are entirely made out of hors d’oeuvres of dubious nutritional value) and part coming-of-age romance, with a twist of tragedy. It’s not always convincing but it is warmly directed by Richard Benjamin and set to a pop soundtrack of songs from the early ‘60s. Cher gets top billing but this is Ryder’s film and it is her performance that carries the story. Christina Ricci makes her film debut as the swimming-obsessed youngest daughter. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)