'Mom alone'

Anna Quindlen

March 20, 1991|By Anna Quindlen

LAST YEAR 20th Century Fox released a little film it made for around $18 million, which is lunch money in Hollywood. It was called "Home Alone," and was about a small boy accidentally left behind while his family went to France on vacation.

You could tell it was a fantasy because his parents flew first class and left the kids to their own devices in coach without being arrested by customs agents or spat upon by their fellow passengers, and the family lived in the kind of house you dream of owning if you ever win Lotto, with no fingerprints around the light switches.

Perhaps because it bore no relation to real life, except that two guys tried to rob the house just before Christmas, the film became a monster hit, with box office grosses that are now just shy of twice the gross national product of Grenada.

It also became controversial because it contains violence.

The sole residue of "Home Alone" for my children has been a tendency to mimic the boy in the film by placing their palms on their cheeks and screaming, disconcerting those who have not seen the movie and boring those who have.

The movie made a great impression on me.

It reinforced my sense that people who make movies are always to one side of the right track, on what in real life would be called a service road.

There is nothing remarkable about a child taking over the house, eating ice cream, watching videos and ordering pizza. The concept reminds me of the old question: Why isn't there a Children's Day?

Answer: Every day is Children's Day.

The movie that really needed to be made was different: "Mom Alone," the story of a woman whose family goes to Disney World and leaves her accidentally in her own bedroom, where she finds inner peace and her manicure scissors.

Scene one: Mom goes into the bathroom and stays there undisturbed for five minutes for the first time in a decade.

Scene two: Mom eats dinner sitting down, without sharing it with anyone, especially anyone who begs to taste it, then spits it out and says, "How can you eat that stuff?"

Scene three: Mom reads a book that is not by Maurice Sendak.

Scene four: Mom sleeps through the night.

And when the burglars come, Mom says, "If you try that again you will get your head handed to you" in a voice so terrifying that the burglars flee.

I have other ideas for women's films: "The Godmother," in which all the Corleone sons have been gunned down and the daughters take the family legit with small accessories stores and a chain of birthing centers; "Dances With Mom," in which a woman goes to the wilderness to find herself and discovers she's already pretty darn evolved, and "Bonfire of the Vanity Fairs," in which a female investment banker almost hits someone in the Bronx, puts on the brakes in time, and has an epiphany in which she realizes she is wasting her life imitating crass men and what she really wants is to develop housing for the homeless.

"Mom Alone" alone would generate controversy. The Sensitive Men lobby would suggest that it denigrates fathers.

This is in direct contrast to television, which has produced a number of shows reflecting those millions of families in which mothers have left to join rock and roll bands and fathers are left caring for their children alone, humorously.

That organization that Phyllis Schlafly runs, whose name always slips my mind, would say that no mother would want to spend a vacation alone beneath the down comforter watching "Waterloo Bridge" and eating Oreos when she could grab a plane and be standing in line at the Magic Kingdom that very day.


None of that will matter to movie people. All they care about are the grosses and the sequel. They're already planning a sequel to "Home Alone," and if I know that inventive industry that brought us "Beverly Hills Cop II," it'll be a lot like the first except terrible. (The kid will put his palms on his cheeks and scream again. Trust me.)

"Mom Alone -- Again."

Scene one: Mom winds up on the wrong plane on her way to Sea World and goes to LaCosta, where she has a pedicure and gets to finish some sentences.

It's not a reality-based film like, say, "Pretty Woman." But there's an audience out there.

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