Cher is magical [and] electric (The Hollywood Reporter), Winona Ryder enchanting and funny (The New York Times) and Christina Ricci adorable and engaging (Variety) in this hilarious and heartwarming portrait of a 196... more »0s single-parent family trying to adjust to each other'sgrowing independence. Charlotte (Ryder) is an adolescent girl torn between her blossoming passions for a handsome caretaker (Michael Schoeffling)...and her desire to be a nun (a tough calling for a girl who's Jewish). Complicating her already precarious teen angst is a little sister (Ricci), a determined would-be swimmer she affectionately calls fishhead, and their mother (Cher), a non-traditional, sexy, flamboyant woman who relocates them to a new town every time she causes a hint of scandalwhich is often. But even as their personal styles clash, these three incredibly different individuals begin to see that nothingnot even a life-threatening tragedycan tear apart the bonds of family.« less
"Cher plays a free-spirited, uninhibited and saucy mother of two. Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and Kate (Christina Ricci), who are about 15- and 8-years old respectively, are her daughters. Cher's behavior and appearance is an embarrassment to Charlotte who is trying to think "pure thoughts" on her way to becoming a nun. Ironically (considering Ryder's recent troubles) the part she plays has no interest in new clothes and even refuses new shoes, content with her old square boots that look like they were made in the former Soviet Union during the reign of Stalin. This is a nice (but increasingly familiar) switch on the mother who is embarrassed by her daughter's precocious sexuality, and Cher and Ryder play their parts well.The story, from a novel by Patty Dann, begins with the trio moving into yet another town, this time somewhere in New England. They are always on the run, so to speak, because Cher is afraid of commitment or of staying around long enough to lose her heart to some guy. Enter predictably a man (Bob Hoskins) with the right stuff to win her over and a cute guy (Michael Schoeffing) to rearrange Charlotte's priorities. Director Richard Benjamin plays it as a romantic comedy ... coming of ager with wit and charm. Ryder is adorably cute as a conservative Christian miss goody two shoes who is always lecturing mom while Cher is voluptuous as the kind of woman who says yes, early and often, but underneath it all has strength and a kind of intuitive wisdom about herself and the people around her. Little Ricci really is the mermaid since she likes to practice holding her breath under water.Part of the strength of the film is in the dialogue and the sharp repartee between Ryder and Cher. My favorite line is from Charlotte who is always dialoging with God. After seeing Schoeffing, who drives the school bus, and realizing what she is feeling, prays "Oh please God, don't make me fall in love and want to do disgusting things!""
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Nicholas Stix | New York City/Queens | 09/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A gentle chick flick with a token male, Mermaids nominally stars Cher, but is really a dramatic coming out party for Winona Ryder. I'd forgotten how winsome (no pun intended) Hollywood's most notorious shoplifter could be.Mermaids is about a wandering "family" of mom "Rachel Flax" (Cher), and her daughters "Charlotte" (a teenaged Ryder) and "Kate" (a very young Christina Ricci). Following another of countless relationships gone bad, Rachel has moved the girls yet again, to a small town in New England, in the early 1960s. We are supposed to find the family endearingly eccentric, and though this shtick is forced, it works with Ryder's Charlotte, and early in the picture, with Cher's Rachel. Mermaids was made in 1990, when the "eccentric"/"fish out water" fad was heating up, beginning with Twin Peaks (and then Northern Exposure), etc., except that instead of a town full of eccentrics, here we get eccentrics in a staid town.Mom is supposedly a slut, but the locals do not make the family suffer for her "loose" behavior; indeed, the town's character is not fleshed out.As noted, Cher, who was then living off of her best actress Oscar for 1987's Moonstruck, gets top billing, but she basically bulls through her scenes on star power, and as the picture progresses, is on screen less and less. Her Rachel Flax neglects her daughters, who get into trouble in her absence. You might say that she neglects the viewer, too. How can a "star" be absent from the screen as much as she is? It's as if the director, Richard Benjamin, had a change of heart halfway through filming, and decided to shift the focus of the story. Or perhaps Benjamin, the third director - the others were Lasse Hallstrom and Frank Oz -- on a troubled production, was caught between two semi-rewritten, June Roberts scripts. (Some reports blamed Cher for the contretemps.)Whatever dramatic interest the movie generates is through Ryder, who herself replaced Emily Lloyd, who reportedly walked off with director #1, Lasse Hallstrom. To the degree that Mermaids functions as a movie, it is as the coming-of-age story of this demure yet blossoming Jewish teenager who wants to become a nun, and who when she gets her first kiss, thinks she is pregnant, bound for a virgin birth. And yet, such cutesy naivete doesn't fit the daughter of a mother who's been around the block as many times as Rachel Flax has.Bob Hoskins' character, "Lou Landsky," pops up early in the picture, has an affair with Cher's Rachel, and apparently employs Charlotte (for one brief scene, at least) in his odd, mixed-use store. While the affair continues for the rest of the picture, Hoskins' character is dribbled away. I guess the production team decided, "That's enough for the guy; this is a chick flick, not The Terminator." But Mermaids sank at the box office.Mermaids has been identified as a coming-of-age story, but that is merely one of the many tossed-off themes in June Roberts' underdeveloped script.While entertaining, Mermaids is a movie with only one fully fleshed-out character and some nice scenes, but something less than a story.The Critical Critic, September 20, 2003"
A Good One!
John A Lee III | San Antonio, TX | 12/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Take an eccentric, single, Jewish mother who leaves town at the hint of the slightest problem, add a confused teenage daughter who wants to be a nun but has a healthy case of raging hormones, throw in a precocious younger daughter who amuses herself by seeing how long she can hold her breath under water, mix with a shoe salesman with the hots for mom and a caretaker from the local convent who is the subject of daughter number one's hots and you have a mess...and a fair little dramatic comedy.
Cher plays the mom. She is q quirky mess. Cher plays this sort of character excellently and this one is no exception. She plays her role as a 1963, single mom with all the angst that goes with having teenage daughters and does so with a sense of humor. You cannot otherwise survive the experience.
Winona Ryder plays the daughter. She doesn't get along with her mom. She hardly gets along with anyone. She is a very dedicated young lady though and cannot make up her mind about boys. She wants to be a nun and, possibly, a saint but she also wants to do "disgusting things" with the boy of her dreams. The birds and the bees are all very confusing as is evidenced when kissing the boy makes her worry that she will be the next virgin, jewish mother to give birth to a messiah. She does not think small.
Christina Ricci plays the younger girl. She is an elementary student with a talent and a passion for swimming. She is universally regarded as the "normal" one and is loved by all. That's the one thing Mom and Sis can agree on.
Bob Hoskins plays the love interest for Cher. He is good for her but straightening out her quirkiness is a fulltime job.
This is a chick flick but is different from most of that genre in that it is fun. Some guys may even enjoy it. I did. "
An quirky,entertaining piece!
K. M. Talha | Malaysia | 12/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mermaids is narrated by the angst-filled teenaged Charlotte Flax (Ryder), who is exasperated by the tendency of her mother (Cher) to move house (and state) as soon as the bin's full, or (more likely) as soon as her latest entanglement with a married boss starts to unravel. Mrs Flax, as Charlotte disparagingly refers to her mother Rachel, is a peripatetic soul, whose only answer to life's challenges is to leave them behind. For Charlotte, the only consolation to her most unsatisfactory lifestyle is her adoration of her little sister, Kate (Ricci), on whom she dotes. In spite of their Jewish origins, Charlotte is obsessed with the mysteries, icons and rites of the Catholic Church. Its rituals of penitence and martyrdom fascinate her and she can relate the history and grisly fate of each of the martyred saints in all their goriest detail.
As we are introduced to the Flax girls, mother and daughter are embroiled in conflict again, as they find themselves in a new home and a new state, this time Massachusetts. The brooding teenager and her charismatic mother have very different priorities of need as they set up their new home. Charlotte needs grounding, Rachel needs distraction and action. Their conflict spills over as the family goes to buy shoes, particularly when Rachel does nothing to deflect the more-than-professional attention she receives from the shoe store owner, Lou Landsky (Hoskins). This particularly galls Charlotte, who carries a fantasy in her heart that the father she never knew will one day come back and complete her family and her longing.
She regards her mother's acceptance of Lou's advances with disdain, whilst at the same time harbouring a guilt-ridden romantic obsession with young Joe Porretti (Michael Schoeffling) - a young local man with a past who works as a handyman at the nearby convent (perfect!).
As they become more entrenched in this small town, Rachel and Lou spend more and more time together. He is besotted with Rachel, and becoming closer to the girls, none of which is really part of Rachel's game plan. She is reluctant to engage in any form of long term arrangement (even the meals she serves are finger food - in her estimation - anything else smacks too much of a commitment), and does not want to include anyone else in her family.
The dilemmas and dramas of Rachel and Charlotte play out as the opposite extremes of a similar persona. Whilst Rachel is winsome, free-spirited and charismatic, and Charlotte is repressed, ultraconservative and introverted, both are utterly flamboyant and solipsistically theatrical. Each of them engage in outrageous flights of dramatic fancy that frequently have momentous impact on those around them whilst, in the main, they emerge relatively unscathed from their melodramatic follies.
That is, until little Kate has a mishap of her own, with potentially devastating consequences. For the first time, neither Rachel nor Charlotte have control over their own destinies; and they do not handle it well. Whilst they wrestle with their guilt and grief by engaging in the blame-fest from hell, it's Lou who attends to the practical details.
This is a stylish Hollywood set-piece that is better than average overall. The leads all turn in excellent performances, and whilst the conclusion was probably never in much doubt, it is a sufficiently engaging film to warrant lazy Sunday afternoon standby status. It bears watching more than once and is sufficiently quirky to maintain audience satisfaction. I quite enjoyed revisiting the film. "
Funny and poignant.
A. Felton | Sacramento, CA USA | 02/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie ages ago with my mom. We are both big fans of "Moonstruck." We both loved this movie. The combo of Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci is phenomenal. Bob Hoskins is great as Cher's love interest. And the very cute Michael Schoeffling (he of Sixteen Candles fame--at least to us kids of the '80s) as the object of Winona Ryder's affection. Great writing, plot, and characters. These aren't some cartoony, 2 dimensional, cardboard cutouts. These are living, growing characters who hurt each other, love each other, and try to learn to be better sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends. Watch it with your mom."