Monday, October 04, 2004
It's not a big secret that I'm a huge fan of Kate Hudson so the movie Raising Helen was one of those previously upcoming movies that I was waiting for. The story revolves around the relationship of the three close sisters, the somewhat conservative and predictable, Jenny (Joan Cusack); the fun loving and crazy, Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), and their still single and glamorous sister, Helen (Kate Hudson). They were a happy bunch every bit loving and very close to each other. The distinction in their personalities were shown earlier on in the movie with the celebration of Audrey's birthday. While Jenny was lovingly chided for being so predictable in giving the same gifts year after year, Helen gave something uncommon: a Devo plastic hat made famous in their "Whip It" video during the early 80s and of course the CD album. It was implied earlier on that she and Audrey shared a common love of sheer craziness and just being silly, even though the latter's a mom of three kids.
Tragedy struck some days after when Audrey and her husband Henry (Spencer Breslin) died instantly in a car accident. While Jenny coped with the loss the best way she could by arranging the funeral and attending to the guests who came to pay their respects, Helen, although devastated, comforted her three orphaned nieces and nephew: Sarah (Abigail Breslin), Paul (Sean O'Bryan), and Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) by spending with them inside the closet in Audrey's room where they holed themselves during the funeral. Still it came as a surprise to the two surviving sisters that Audrey picked Helen to be the new step-mom for her kids. Anticipating there would be some violent reactions she wrote a note in advance for each of them explaining why. Both sisters reluctantly did what each was asked to do even though it meant sacrificing some huge plans along the way. On Helen's part that means killing much of her social life, moving out of her nice but small apartment and eventually getting her fired from her job as an executive assistant to the big boss of a modelling agency. But there were some unexpected bonuses along the way like getting got a very nice neighor, Nilma Prasad (Sakina Jaffrey) who looked out for her and who also recommended her a position at a used car dealer (a big drop from her former job but at least her boss and co-workers were fun to be with), and last but not least, her meeting the amiable young and good looking, Dan Parker (John Corbett), a pastor from the nearby Lutheran school where the kids were enrolled. But inspite of the pros and cons of the whole situation (which kinda evens things out) the matter of the fact was that she wasn't ready to step off the role of being an single fun loving aunt who the kids love to pieces into being a serious, no nonsense step-mom whose heart the kids will rip to pieces. It was all too big of a risk for her to take and she wasn't prepared to take it on herself even it means closing her heart to those that are knocking on the door matter the most to avoid taking this big risk.
I don't know many stories involving children coping with death but I gotta say that this one's an interesting take on the different reactions the kids have on the sudden death of their parents. That's what made it so interesting for me. Like the eldest, who's in her mid-teens would suddenly crash into the world of parties and premarital sex. All she had as a role model at the time was single, happy, in her 30's doing whatever she wants to do and coupled with her hormones kicking into full gear. Helen had the hardest time dealing with her eldest niece. She probably thought she had no way of talking about the horrors of unending parties because that's what she's been showing the kids for so long. The middle kid kind of withdrew to himself and rarely smiled and doesn't relate to anybody except his pet turtle. His love of basketball went to an all time low without any explanation and it took a long time before he confessed that he felt guilty of enjoying the things he did before the loss. He thought it would be grossly unfair to his dad if he moved on and enjoyed his life without him by his side (one viewer talked about it). The youngest kid didn't know how to react to the loss, or rather, couldn't put much of what she felt about the loss and would seem to have moved on except for those times when she tries to accomplish the one thing her mom taught her right before she died, tying her shoes. She cries everytime she forgets how to do it or if someone does it wrong because for her it would be like erasing the one precious memory she has of her mom. It took every ounce of strength that Helen had and beyond to make her cope with the problem and make her change her perspective of life. Sure there would be some hard times there were times that getting through what she fears the most lies the solution to her problems but she realizes that she loved the kids so much to deprive them of a best friend and a mom and she loved her sister so much to add to her shoulders additional burden even if she's willing to take them on. There's also the matter of a budding romance between her and the Methodist pastor that she felt uncomfortable with (coming from a traditional misconception about men of God). But he wouldn't let her go and patiently waited for her to change her mind about being ready, giving us one of the most hilarious, unexpected and unforgettable line in the movie: "I'm a sexy man of God, and I know it!" You can read a really good reaction to this, from a Christian point of view, by clicking the link below.
* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.