Mom and Dad
Adulting is hard. Every stage leading up to it has its downsides: when you’re a teen you’re disenfranchised, when you’re a tween you are insecure and awkward, when you are a child you are vulnerable, I can’t remember being an infant, but I can imagine it was terrifying. However, the hardships of youth have something in common – hope. As a child, you are a wellspring of potential. In the waters of promise, you cultivate aspirations and dreams that you will reap as soon as you are a ‘grown-up.’
When you finally reach adulthood, you find yourself standing in your evaporating pool of potential, desperately trying to tend to the few measly plants, while the others just wither and die around you. This feeling is compounded when you are a parent. You’re trying to ignore the cruel passage of time and there is a physical manifestation of it eating from your fridge, leaving out their toys for you to trip over, and asking to borrow the car keys. As you get weaker and less viable, they just get stronger and more independent, like parasites that you’ll go to jail for eradicating.
Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad walks a blade thin line between cautionary tale and catharsis, begging the question - what would happen if we gave way to our pent up rage and jealousy of the next generation? They are coming for our jobs, our husbands, our cultural relevance; they are smarter than us, savvier than us, sexier than us; why are we wasting our time fostering them instead of fighting for our own survival? In this film, a mass hysteria is sweeping the globe infecting the brains of those who dared to procreate, causing widespread filicide.
Parents are enraged, inspired, and falling all over themselves to murder their own children, and only their own children. It starts with a mom leaving her pram on a train track, but in the neighborhood of the Ryan family, it quickly leads to the cops creating a perimeter around the public high school to keep the hoard of rabid suburbanites from doing in young Jacob/Madison/Alexis. Talking heads on the television try to make sense of it all. Celebrity medical spokes-expert(?) Dr. Oz likens the sudden and explicable aggression to ‘savaging,’ a behavioral anomaly often seen in domestic pigs where a mother turns and kills its young. But this isn’t on a case-by-case basis. The gore is everywhere. It’s like the zombie apocalypse, but they all drive SUVs.
Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair play Brent and Kendall Ryan. The Ryans were good parents before the world turned all Night of the Living Soccer Mom. Well, relatively. It’s clear that the stress and exhaustion of parenthood, with the disappointments of adulthood, has caused strain on their self-esteem and marriage.
Brent is barely keeping the lid on his pent-up discontent. He longs for his high school hey-day of getting sexual favors in his Dad’s Pontiac Firebird, and can’t help but compare his doldrums existence in his dead-end job with his youthful expectations. The role of Brent plays right into Cage’s unwieldy wheelhouse. Brent is an unstable nuclear reactor. Before the turn, he is venting his hostility in short bursts of disapproval for his teenage daughter’s boyfriend and muttering profanity under his breath, Apocalypse or nay, Brent is going to blow. And blow he does in spectacular Nic Cage fashion – he rages, he blubbers, he has way too much fun with power tools.
Kendall is going through an identity crisis of her own. She has poured her entire self into the mom-mold, but is now chilled by the realization that her children are not just going to grow up, but grow away from her. What will happen when her kids are out of the house with their own better lives that she made possible through her constant, unconditional love and support? She’s been out of the workforce so long; they’ll have nothing to do with her. Was it just going to be one cardio-fitness class after another for the last third of her life? Sure, becoming filicidal psychopaths was not part of her game plan, but at least she and Brent were working as a team and he could appreciate her again for being the intelligent, problem-solving, woman of action he fell in love with. Blair’s Kendall is the perfect compliment to Cage’s Brent. While Brent is unpredictable and reactive, Kendall is calculating and productive. In opposition, they create tension, but together they are diabolical.
With Bryan Taylor, of Crank and Crank: High Voltage, at the helm, you know you are in for an insane and frenetic ride. There is humor to his violence, and violence to his humor. You may shock yourself with the darkness that Taylor gets you to laugh at. Mom and Dad shares in the celebration of exploitation like Crank and Crank 2, but has a social commentary underpinning that puts it more in the realm of Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Through his story telling, Taylor balances two parallel mysteries – what is causing the parents of the world to snap? and what happened to Brent and Kendall when they became Mom and Dad?
Before all the world’s parents turned savage-pig trying to crush their little piglets, Carly’s ponytail wielding teacher (Joseph D. Reitman) was giving an impromptu lecture on ‘planned obsolescence’ – the idea that for progress to be made, the primary versions have to be so eclipsed by the newer generation that they are literally rendered useless. Mr. Hip-teach is using the students’ confiscated smart phones as the example, but those of us who have watched Mom and Dad and have voted in more than one presidential election know what he’s really talking about. One day the latest iOS update is going to leave us confused and glitchy, and our replacement is probably spewing rainbow vomit on snapchat right now. Oh my god, is that even a current reference? Brick me now!
Mom and Dad is available on VOD and digitally come January 19th. I highly recommend sitting down with your own progeny and maybe even your parents, pop some popcorn and make it a multi-generational family affair. Just make sure that your household tools are locked up tight, because the Saws-All is called that for a reason. It saws all.