Friday, March 22, 2013

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: Goodbye, Supermom

Network: CBS 
Original Air Date: January 1st, 1988

Valerie Harper stars in a tele-film that attempts to speak to the tug of war women had with deciding whether or not they should become corporate powerhouses or impossibly perfect housewives. It’s a comedy, and the film makes fun of several issues, including an outdated, but cute, joke about punk rock hair! But the heart of the film is about a successful executive named Nora (Harper) who dreams of giving up her career in exchange for the suburbs and PTA meetings. She’s married to an equally successful exec named Jack (Wayne Rogers) and the two struggle with how to raise their children in a world of late 80s problems.

Well, sorta late 80s. While Goodbye, Supermom (aka Drop-Out Mom) seeks to address a then-very modern issue, it relies on the superficial black and white dreams made from 1950s sitcoms. That Nora meets her mother in a classic TV themed diner must have been purposeful, as it captures the old school fantasy world of conservative ideology. And yes, that’s as deep as I’m gonna get.

While Goodbye, Supermom comments on these fairly heavy-duty issues, they do so with tongue in cheek. Harper was actually worried that the film would not connect with viewers, and in an interview she said, “I was more afraid the movie was elitist, since the husband and the wife were both making $100,000 a year. But they both hated what they were doing. She’s a corporate flack for a really piggy defense contractor. It’s about finding a balance in one’s life.”

The facile world of living life as a corporate shilling takes on cartoonish proportions. Nora is a PR executive who handles a female musician client named Virgin (hello, Madonna!) and Jack attempts to aid a crooked evangelist who wants to become governor. Both sides are exaggerated and silly, elevating those moments to social satire. Nora’s BFFs are just as superficial, looking to have nose jobs called “The Lee Remick” and dating any and every man who looks at them twice. It makes suburban domesticity look rather attractive, but the problems encompassed in the space of home life are tame, and not as engaging.

However, what does work is Jack and Nora’s marriage. I loved how they fought but no one came off as the enemy. Jack is really well written and it was nice to see the husband not turn out to be a louse. His biggest problem is that he seems to be allergic to life in the suburbs! Likewise, Nora really wants to do right by her family, even if she’s no good at cooking (and what was up with the veal theme?). In an interview with Rogers he talked about how his character wants to support her decisions but worries that he’s losing the woman he loves. He said, “The drop in our family income isn’t something that figures in his reaction… The essence is that he doesn’t like the change in her.” I love when Jack consoles Nora by telling her that it’s OK that she’s not a great housewife – He always wanted to be a great ball player but that didn’t happen either. That he equated his sports ambitions with her desire to be Mrs. Cleaver showed a lot of respect and I loved it.

Overall though, the film is too uneven. It’s elevated by the charm of both Harper and Rogers, and the flat out satire is a hoot, but it doesn’t seem to know where to place the humor in some scenes. However, if late 80s tele-films are your bag (and really, they must be or you wouldn’t be here), Goodbye, Supermom is a great trip back in time. It's currently streaming on Netflix! And please, could someone really open up that TV themed restaurant?

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