Fathers and daughters, a topic rife with the opportunity for Hallmark sap, hard to get right, but so rewarding when it strikes just the right chord. Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting another great Thursday Movie Picks theme, from two guys who are neither fathers nor daughters, and one fatherless daughter…because who better to judge?
Lethal Weapon – awarded to the whole series as a body of work. These movies are up-and-down but they are fun stupid films that keep adding more and more extraneous characters as sequelitis sets in. Luckily for me this week, Murtagh has a daughter that factors into the secondary drama of almost every movie, from possible love interest for Riggs in the first one, condom ad star in one of the middle ones, and baby mama to Chris Rock in the last one! And possibly more that I have forgotten. So on the list they all go just to be safe.
Taken – Liam Neeson’s tough old guy shtick started right here as far as I can tell, as the tough old dad of a coed “taken” by European gangsters. And like Liam says in the most awesome phone call ever made to a kidnapper, he uses his skills to track down all involved and kill them good. Spoiler alert: it seems that except for saving his daughter’s life he really hasn’t been a good father, but luckily there are sequels where as far as I know he saves her again, or saves his wife, or something. As usual, they should have stopped after the first one but instead really ran this concept into the ground and made me not care at all anymore.
Star Wars – so we don’t actually know at this point that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure George Lucas did not have that plan or even the idea at any point when making this movie. As far as I can remember, though, this movie is the only one of the original 3 films in which this father and daughter “team” share a few scenes, so that’s why it makes the list over Return of the Jedi (where Leia actually learns who’s her daddy). Plus it’s such a classic movie! Even the terrible prequels couldn’t ruin it for me. So it makes the list. Can you tell I struggled this week?
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner- Back in December, I wrote a post describing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracey)’s conflict with his own values. He raised his daughter (Katharine Houghton) right- no race is superior to another and anyone who thought they were was foolish and ignorant. Matt realizes he may have done a little too good a job when she brings home a charming black doctor played by the great Sidney Poitier whom she wants to marry. While this unexpected situation may expose some hidden bigotry on Matt’s part, mostly he can’t help but admire his new son-in-law to be and mostly objects to the union because of the unimaginable challenges his daughter will surely be facing. Although he’d hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain, he eventually learns to let go and trust his daughter to be strong enough to face the world. The movie can’t help but show its age a little nearly fifty years later but not in the ways that count.
American Beauty- Lester and Jane Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Thora Birch) aren’t as close as they used to be. In fact, she asks her boyfriend to kill her father in the first scene. Lester’s a little too busy with his middle-aged angst and Jane with her adolescent angst for the two to really connect and Lester only starts taking interest in her life when he develops an obsessive crush on her best friend. He may not deserve a World’s Best Dad mug but I love that his dying thoughts are of her and happy that she thinks she’s in love. Tragically, his last words to her are “You’d better watch yourself or you’re going to become a real bitch just like your mother”.
Kick-Ass- I have serious reservations about Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage)’s parenting style but, unlike Lester, at least he never forgets to tell his daughter (Chloe Moretz) that he loves her. It helps to have common interests. In this case, taking down the D’Amico family and enjoy the sweet taste of bloody revenge with their hot chocolate. Big Daddy has turned Hit Girl into one foul-mouthed ass-kicking 11 year-old who knows how to take a shot to the chest. Marcus may feel that Big Daddy owed his father a childhood but at least he died leaving his daughter the two most important things: the ability to take care of herself and the knowledge that her Daddy loves her.
The Descendants – This movie is so emotionally loaded and frought, it shreds me to pieces to watch it. Matt’s wife has just been fatally injured in a boat accident. She’s in a coma, waiting to die, while Matt runs around picking up all the pieces. Two really big pieces are his darling daughters who Matt bewilderingly tries to care for though he identifies only as the “back-up parent, the understudy”. The older daughter initially seems to be pretty hostile toward her father, but we soon see she’s really just covering for a secret she’s keeping from him. Turns out coma wife has been unfaithful. So Matt’s already confused and complicated relationships with his daughters become even more so, leaning on the elder for support and understanding, while trying desperately to shield the younger from the ugly truth about her mother as they all struggle to say goodbye amid the complications of anger and blame. Meanwhile, there’s another father-daughter relationship at play: that of coma wife, and her own dear dad, who copes with grief by putting his daughter on a pedestal and lashing out at all others, blaming not just Matt, but his own granddaughters, for his daughter’s not-quite-perfect life. It’s frustrating for we, the viewers, who know that his daughter is far from blameless, and even more difficult for Matt and the oldest daughter who manage to keep the truth to themselves in a show of compassion, allowing him to kiss his little girl goodbye with only the tenderest of feelings.
Crash – You may remember there are a kajillion intersecting plot lines in this movie, most involving some kind of racial prejudice, but I’ll always be thankful to this movie for introducing me to Michael Pena. He plays Daniel, a locksmith who gets cut absolutely no slack by any of his customers because he’s Hispanic, and this makes the white folk (like Sandra Bullock) jumpy. Even the Persian shop owner gives him hell, misunderstanding a bit about a broken door that needs to be replaced, assuming that the locksmith is trying to screw him over. After a hard day’s work, he goes home to a rough neighbourhood where his crazy-cute daughter is hiding under her bed, frightened by the gunfire overheard. He soothes her with a story about an invisible, impenetrable cloak that will keep her safe. When the Persian shop is re-vandalized, the owner gets himself a gun and blames the guy on the work order. He shows up at Daniel’s house and opens fire – just as the little girl jumps into her father’s arms. For a very long moment we – and they – fear that the girl has been shot, but actually, she has saved the day with her heroic magic cape. Okay, not actually true. The real saving grace? Another daughter – the Persian’s – who protected her father the only way she knew how – by loading his gun with blanks.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Not a straight forward relationship by any means, it’s still clear that father Wink and daughter Hushpuppy have a relationship central to this story. His treatment of her sometimes seems neglectful, even brutal, but is actually pretty typical within the context of their fictional community where children are encouraged to roam free among the livestock and wildlife. In fact, her father’s occasional disappearances seem to be related to his ill-health more than his disinterest. His ways are rough, but he’s really just preparing her for a time when he’s no longer around, and she seeks his approval by being strong and independant – at the tender age of 6. When the big storm comes, he’s there, with a pair of water wings and a shotgun that he fires at the clouds, trying to chase them away and make his daughter feel better. When Wink’s time is almost up, he tries to find her a safe place to go, but she insists on returning to his side, witnessing his remaining heartbeats.
My father-daughter picks IN OUTER SPACE can be found here.