Overbearing Mommas

Sophia Satchell Baeza

Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) in Jean-Marc Vallée’s recently released Café De Flore is proud and pushy, and belongs in a cinematic tradition of overbearing ‘Tiger Moms’. The film follows this single mother in ‘60s Paris trying to bring up her young Down Syndrome son (Marin Gerrier) and stopping at nothing, until their close relationship runs into trouble when he falls in love with a girl. With that in mind, we chart our top ten meddling mamas in film, from the pushy to the plain psychotic.

1. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Mrs. Bates probably takes the biscuit for Pushiest Mother in Cinema History, going as far as making herself at home, even after her death, in the nervous split personality psyche of her son, Norman Bates, in order to commit various murders in an out-of-town motel.

2. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

Aronofsky’s tense psychological thriller may not be the best advert for ballet  – shown here as a world of cat fighting, eating disorders, self-mutilation and destructive perfectionism  – though even that doesn’t look as bad as the parenting. Failed ex-dancer ‘Tiger Mom’ (Barbara Hershey) constantly breathes down the neck of her frail dancer daughter Nina (Natalie Portman), to the point of personally dressing her twenty-something daughter, mollycoddling her with cuddly toys, and even getting into her sex dream (talk about a terrifying Danger Wank). 

3. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)

Elaine (the wonderful Frances McDormand) is portrayed fondly as an ambitious professor full of New Age beliefs who won’t let her kids listen to rock music or celebrate Christmas. Her pushiness pushes them away; Anita (Zoe Deschanel) leaves the “house of lies” to become an air stewardess, while William gets to hang out with Lester Bangs, tour with the band Stillwater and lose his virginity with a bunch of groupies. Not bad for a mum who dared scream to her son at a rock concert: “DON’T TAKE DRUGS”.

4. Serial Mom (John Waters, 1994)

The tagline for John Waters’ campy comedy alone gives you an idea what kind of calibre Serial Mom belongs to: “Every Mom Wants To Be Wanted, But Not For Murder One!” Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is just the mum you want, someone who’s willing to run over your maths teacher for having the cheek to call you a horror film obsessive.

5. Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood, 2009)

John Lennon (Aaron Johnson)’s teenage years are here dominated by two pushy mamas: his controlling but well-meaning Aunt Mimi (played wonderfully by Kristin Scott Thomas) and his sexy wild birth mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff). Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

6. Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, 2010)

Janine (Jacki Weaver) is the terrifying matriarch of a Melbourne crime family (based on a real life gangster family called the Pettingills). Janine’s character is based on Kate Pettingill, an ex-prostitute who went on to run a number of brothels, and headed the notorious Pettingill criminal family. She wore a glass eye after being shot at trying to repay a bill for her daughter.

7. Precious (Lee Daniels, 2009)

Overbearing is a strong understatement for one of the nastiest mum’s in cinema history, a woman content to push her daughter down the stairs, throw household objects at her face and tell her: “I shoulda aborted your mother***ing ass coz you ain’t shit”.

8. Babycall (Pål Sletaune, 2011)

Anna (a phenomenal Noomi Rapace) and her eight-year old son Anders (Vetle Qvenild Werring) leave home in order to escape his abusive and murderous father. We witness her psychological (and often physical) grip on the child, as the film follows her mental deterioration to a sudden and unexpectedly violent dénouement. Watch out for the baby monitor trope, a common theme of overbearing horror mums.

9. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, it tells of a loner girl who develops telekinetic powers after having a period post gym class. Her Bible-bashing sociopathic mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) hits her over the head with a Woman’s Bible and locks her in a cupboard for bleeding (calling it the ‘curse of blood’). All we got was fat and grumpy, Carrie got the power of telekinesis to collapse the house over her abusive mother, killing her in the process. Not fair.

10. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)

And last but not least, we have the original MILF, the sexy, pushy and confusing mother, best personified by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). The fabulous leopard print alcoholic seduces 21-year-old Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) when her husband’s at work. In that famous seduction scene, we see him framed underneath her stockinged leg, twinkly music going on in the background, as he asks: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”. I’d like to think Mrs. Robinson didn’t morph into Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge) seducing Finch in American Pie, but I fear she did. 

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