Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Benjamin|
|Written by||June Roberts|
by Patty Dann
|Music by||Jack Nitzsche|
|Edited by||Jacqueline Cambas|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Box office||$35.4 million|
Mermaids is a 1990 American family comedy-drama film directed by Richard Benjamin, and starring Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder, Michael Schoeffling, and Christina Ricci in her film debut. Set in the early 1960s, its plot follows a neurotic teenage girl who moves with her wayward mother and young sister to a small town in Massachusetts. It is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Patty Dann.
Originally planned as the American debut of Swedish director Lasse Hallström, the film was ultimately directed by Benjamin after both Hallström and Frank Oz abandoned the project. Filming of Mermaids took place in various locations in Massachusetts in the fall of 1989.
Released in December 1990, Mermaids was met with critical acclaim, particularly for the performance of Ryder, who received a Golden Globe Award nomination and a National Board of Review Award. Ricci also won a Young Artist Award for her performance.
In 1963 Oklahoma, Charlotte Flax is a neurotic 15-year-old whose carefree single mother, Rachel, relocates Charlotte and her 9-year-old half-sister, Kate, each time she ends a relationship. Rachel's parenting approach—which more resembles friendship than mothering—is troubling to the anxiety-ridden Charlotte, who is embarrassed by her mother's flamboyant nature. After ending an affair with her married employer, Rachel and her daughters move to the small town of Eastport, Massachusetts where she also gets a job as a receptionist for an insurance adjuster. Charlotte is ecstatic about their new home's location, as it borders a convent, and she is obsessed with Catholicism.
Charlotte soon becomes enamored with Joe Poretti, a 26-year-old caretaker of the convent and local school bus driver. Meanwhile, Rachel meets a local shoe store owner, Lou Landsky, and slowly begins a relationship with him. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Charlotte finds Joe ringing the convent bell and consoles him. However, they begin to kiss and feeling filled with sin, she flees. After the encounter, she begins fasting in order to purge her sinful thoughts, but eventually passes out from hunger.
Uneducated about sex, Charlotte fears that God will punish her with pregnancy via immaculate conception, and decides to steal her mother's car and run away. She drives all night before stopping at the home of a young family in New Haven, Connecticut, claiming to have suffered car troubles. The family invite her to have breakfast, but Lou arrives to retrieve Charlotte during the meal, having tracked her after reporting the car stolen. Rachel chastises Charlotte when she returns home, but Charlotte never reveals the cause for her running away. The next day, Charlotte makes an appointment with a local obstetrician under the name Joan Arc. When the doctor informs Charlotte she is not pregnant, she is shocked but relieved.
At a New Year's Eve costume party, Lou asks Rachel to marry and move in with him, but she declines, reminding him he is still legally married to his wife (who had left him). After the party, Rachel finds her car refuses to start, and is given a ride home by Joe. Upon arriving home, Rachel gives Joe a kiss and wishes him a happy New Year. Charlotte observes the kiss, and becomes enraged, believing her mother is trying to thwart her budding relationship. On New Year's Day, with Rachel out for the day with Lou, Charlotte and Kate get drunk on jug wine and wander to the convent. Charlotte finds Joe in the bell tower, and leaves Kate unattended by a river. While Charlotte and Joe begin to have sex in the tower, Kate nearly drowns in the river, but is saved by the nuns.
While Kate recovers, an infuriated Rachel gets into an argument with Charlotte about her irresponsibility, and threatens to again move them to another town. The argument ends after Rachel slaps Charlotte in the face, and the two subsequently have a calm, heartfelt conversation. Discussing her father, Charlotte comes to the realization that he is never coming back to them. Rachel ultimately agrees to Charlotte's plea that they stay in Eastport at least one more year.
Over the following year, Rachel and Lou continue their relationship, while Joe relocates to California to open a plant nursery; he and Charlotte keep in contact via postcards. At school, Charlotte has gained a new reputation due to her sexual encounter with Joe, and replaces her Catholicism obsession with Greek mythology. The film ends with Rachel, Charlotte, and Kate playfully dancing as they set the dinner table for a family meal, something they have never done in the past.
- Cher as Rachel Flax ("Mrs. Flax")
- Bob Hoskins as Louis "Lou" Landsky
- Winona Ryder as Charlotte Flax
- Michael Schoeffling as Joseph "Joe" Poretti
- Christina Ricci as Kate Flax
- Caroline McWilliams as Carrie
- Jan Miner as Mother Superior
- Betsy Townsend as Mary O'Brien
- Richard McElvain as Mr. Crain
- Paula Plum as Mrs. Crain
Producers initially engaged Swedish director Lasse Hallström to direct Mermaids as his American feature debut, but he left the project to direct Once Around (1991). They subsequently hired Frank Oz as a replacement, but he also abandoned the project after clashing with actresses Cher and Winona Ryder. Ultimately, they hired Richard Benjamin to direct the project.
Producer Patrick Palmer commented that both Hallström and Oz had envisioned a darker tone for the film, and that at one point, Hallström's version of the film included Charlotte committing suicide.
Emily Lloyd was originally cast in the role of Charlotte Flax. She had begun shooting the film when Cher complained that Lloyd did not look enough like her to play her daughter. Winona Ryder, who impressed both Cher and then-director Oz in Heathers (1989), was subsequently cast in the part. Lloyd sued Orion Pictures Corporation and Mermaid Productions for breach of contract and received US$175,000 in damages; reaching a settlement on the second day of the trial, 30 July 1991.
Principal photography of Mermaids began September 25, 1989 in Massachusetts, and completed on December 15 of that year. The Flax house exterior was built for the film in Coolidge Point near Manchester-by-the-Sea, while downtown Rockport served as the fictional village of Eastport. In a rural area near North Easton, the production crew built a 60-foot (18 m) bell tower for the convent set, as well as a cottage. Some interior photography was completed on a soundstage constructed in a warehouse in Malden. Though the majority of the film was shot in Massachusetts, some additional photography occurred in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
Time Out New York wrote; ‘The film is burdened by curious details and observations, and its preoccupation with all things aquatic (little sister is an ace swimmer, Mom dresses up as a mermaid for New Year's Eve, etc.) is overworked. Characterisation suffers, with Charlotte and Rachel too self-absorbed to engage our sympathies. Crucially, they just aren't funny’.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote; "Mermaids, adapted by the English writer June Roberts from the novel by Patty Dann, is a terribly gentle if wisecracking comedy about the serious business of growing up."
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Winona Ryder||Nominated|
|National Board of Review||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Christina Ricci||Won|
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- Arnold, Ben (July 27, 2016). "Emily Lloyd: The Unluckiest Actress In Hollywood History?". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
- Kleid, Beth (December 28, 1990). "Legal File". Los Angeles Times.
- "A summary of Southern California-related business litigation developments during the past week". Los Angeles Times. 31 December 1990. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
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- "Mermaids". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- "Mermaids (1990)". Time Out London. 14 December 1990. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
- Canby, Vincent (December 14, 1990). "Cher's the Mother (Don't Eat the Snacks)". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2020.