Monday, June 27, 2016

Problem Child

The Good Son
Director: Joseph Ruben
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson, David Morse
Released: September 24, 1993


I have mentioned a few times on here how I was a huge fan of Heath Ledger’s, like a legitimate fangirl. The height of my Heath, ahem, obsession was when I was 18/19/early twenties. HOWEVER, before that, when I was 11/12/13, there were two young actors my age who I thought were soooo cool because they were already Hollywood stars at such a young age and they were soooooo cute, like I was totes in luv with them! You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Of course I’m talking about Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, the quintessential early ‘90s child actors! Why do you think I watched My Girl 30 + times? Why do you think I gushed over Elijah so much in my Forever Young review? Being that I was too young and The Good Son was rated R, I was not allowed to see it in theaters...I may or may not have cried about that....shut up! It's so unfair! I did get to see it when it was on video when I was 13. :::rolls eyes:::: It is interesting that 1993's two most popular twelve-year-olds were the leads in a rated R movie. Who exactly was the audience for this movie since their fanbase was way too young? 

Let me tell you a story that proves my fangirlness. As if you doubt me! This probably began in the fall of '93. I decided I was going to write to Macaulay and Elijah with the goal of getting their autographs. Only problem was, I didn't know where to send my letters. I think while the Internet did exist back in '93, I did not have access to it at that time. So I wrote to Disney Adventures, this magazine I subscribed to when I was a kid/preteen. It's where I got all my Hollywood news for kids/teens and they often had articles about Mac and Elijah so I knew they would be a good source for me. I did get a reply back from them and they supplied me with their agents'/fanclub addresses. Macaulay's was located in New York and Elijah's was in L.A., but of course I already knew that much! So I wrote them both letters and I don't remember anything I wrote. I'm sure I told Elijah that I had relatives who lived in Iowa since I knew he was from there (thanks, Disney Adventures!) I do remember keeping the letters only one page and I didn't write anything too psychotic. And I'm sure I asked both of them for their autographs since that was the purpose of my letter writing. I never heard back from Macaulay, but he was a pretty big star at that time and probably got loads of fanmail. However, while Elijah had been in the same amount of movies as Mac (they were each in 8 movies between '90-'94), he wasn't as famous since he didn't have a Home Alone and in March '94 I received an autographed pic of him. So I have thirteen-year-old Elijah Wood's autograph. That's pretty cool, right?  

Major spoilers ahoy! I am literally going to spoil everything. 

Totes adorbes behind the scenes!
This movie stars Macaulay as Henry Evans, an EVIL twelve-year-old demon child. Elijah plays his cousin, Mark, who will find out about Henry's evil ways! Okay, I have to get this out of my system because my inner twelve-year-old fangirl comes out when I watch this movie: OMG THEY ARE SOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE IN THIS!!!!!!! SO. FREAKING. CUTE! I mean, the things Macaulay does in this movie aren't quite so "cute"!

This movie, which is described as a "psychological thriller", is not scary at all. There are a few creepy parts, but, if anything, the movie is funny at times. Unintentionally, of course. There are some pretty horrific scenes, don't get me wrong! Okay, get ready to hear some shocking news: the screenplay was written by IAN MCEWAN!!! Yes, Ian McEwan, author of Atonement. Isn't that crazy?

The movie starts with Mark's mom dying from cancer or something (after he promises her he won't let her die; good job, kid!) and his dad (David Morse) has to go to Tokyo on an important business trip, so his brother, Wallace, who is Henry's dad, is at the funeral and suggest that he let Mark stay with them while he's away since they're "family". Okay, let me just add that Mark and his dad live in the Southwest and Wallace and his family live in New England and aside from his uncle, Mark hasn't seen his relatives in ten years (which is mentioned later) so he hasn't seen them since he was two! Um, wouldn't it be easier and more practical to let him stay in his home state with a friend from his soccer team?

But....whatever...that would just make too much sense! So they drive all the way across the country and Mark meets his Aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson; she's best known for playing the First Lady in Air Force One), and his cousins, Henry and Connie. After they all have dinner, Mark says goodbye to his dad who tells him, "Cheer up! It's Winter Break." Okay, why is he telling his son, whose mother JUST DIED, to "cheer up?" And he's actually the most stable adult in this movie! I am so confused by when this movie is suppose to take place. Winter Break would imply that it's around Christmas, but you don't see the house or anywhere else on the island decorated with Christmas stuff. I just figured they both get a winter break in February.

The first two days the two boys bond and everything seems to be going okay. Henry shows Mark his ridiculously high tree house. This is one of the more well known scenes where Elijah steps on a branch that snaps and Macaulay grabs him and asks, "If I let you go, you think you could fly?" before helping him up. Well, guess what, Dollface? You're about to test that theory in six days! And the answer is going to be NO! No, you can NOT fly when someone lets go of you as you're dangling from a perilous ledge hundreds of feet above the ground!

"Fly, you fool!" 

After vandalizing an old building, they hang out in a graveyard with a randomly placed well where Henry takes out some cigarettes and offers one to Mark who says they give you cancer and Henry says, "Who cares? You're gonna die anyway." LOL! Um, you are TWELVE! OMG! I mean, he might as well light up cuz he's gonna be dead at the end of the week! Henry asks Mark if he saw his mother after she died and says that he got a good look at his kid brother, Richard, after he drowned. He says that people don't like to talk about death and that you have to "investigate" it and that it's "scientific". This is one macabre kid! The next day they get chased by this ugly dog across a bridge. I laughed when Macaulay says, "Nice knowing you!" and they start to run. Okay, who is letting their dog run rampant on this bridge to maul these adorable children? Granted, one of these children does deserve to get mauled! They reach the end of the bridge where Henry closes the gate and barks at the snarling dog and Mark's looking at him funny. You can tell he's starting to sense there's something...off about his cousin.

"Keep the change, you filthy animal!"
I love how Mama Evans, who lost her toddler son in a "freak accident" (or so she thinks!), lets her twelve-year-old son and nephew run amok on this island...let's hope they don't fall off any cliffs! Or fall out of tree houses! Or fall into any wells! Or get mauled by a dog!

Kevin McCallister shows Nat Cooper this contraption he made that shoots steel bolts. They test it out and Henry aims it at a cat and Mark tells him, "Just give her a good scare" and he's says, "Sure" in a sinister voice and shoots the gun and the bolt goes into a tree near the cat...and the cat doesn't even flinch! Um...if something came whizzing past my cat's head, he would get the hell out of there! But, WHAT? He tried to kill that cat? Somebody needs to SLAP that kid across his adorable and cherubic face! Ironically, it's Mark who will get slapped later on. Poor Mark. I just want to give him a hug and some hot chocolate and a puppy. There's no other Elijah Wood character I feel worse for than Mark Evans; it's true! His aunt and uncle are absolutely atrocious to him. They don't listen to him and if they do take five seconds to shut up and hear what he's saying, they don't believe him and call him a liar! They hit him and they lock him in rooms!

The adults in this movie, they're what the French call "les incompetent". This includes a child psychologist named Dr. Davenport that Mark's aunt and uncle got for him to talk to. This woman is probably the worst child psychologist in the whole New England area. Nothing too bad happens at their first meeting; Mark just tells her that he let his mother die. Aww, poor kid, you gotta stop beating yourself up about that. Oh, yeah, Mark thinks his mother is coming back, "maybe not as herself", but in some form she is going to return to him. Cuckoo! He wakes up in the middle of the night when he hears something and sees a woman walking barefoot in a white robe. He thinks it might be his mom and starts crying when he realizes it isn't and when his aunt comes over to comfort him, he says, "It is you! You came back!" The camera pans above so we see Henry looking down at them, not looking very pleased by the moment his mother and cousin are sharing. This scene helps my theory why Henry is the way he is, but I'll get to that later.

"Look what you did, you little jerk!"
The third day is when things start to get a little tense between the two cousins. They're playing with Henry's bolt gun and he kills the dog that was chasing them the other day. Mark gives him a horrified/disgusted look to which Henry tells him, "I was only trying to scare him" which is a lie because he specifically said he was targeting the dog as he aimed the gun toward it. That was no accident! They put the dog in a burlap sack and heave it into the well. The dog wasn't huge, but it was a lot bigger than the sack they were carrying. The producers could have at least tried to make the bundle the size of the dog! 

We get another bonding moment between Mark and Susan talking about their deceased loved ones. Henry wants to show Mark something in the shed and it's so obvious Mark doesn't want to go with him. Henry apologizes about the dog and once again says it was an accident and asks him, "You don't think I would do a thing like that on purpose, do you?" (YES!) He introduces Mark to "Mr. Highway" (a real original name as we'll soon find out!), this dummy that's dressed in his dad's clothes. He tells Mark that if he helps him, then he'll promise him "something amazing, something you'll never forget." Well, with temptation like that, who can resist? I guess Mark's curiosity outweighs his common sense and he helps Henry carry the dummy to an overpass and hoist it up where Henry then proceeds to push Mr. Highway (who is apparently suicidal) off and into oncoming traffic below. After they watch a ten car pile-up (and nobody even notices them!), they run and hide from the police in a drain pipe. Realizing that he was being used as an accessory to murder, this is when Mark knows for a fact what a f**ked-up cousin he has. They have a very interesting conversation, but I will come back to that later when I attempt to psychoanalysis this movie. Get ready for that! Luckily, Mark is NOT a murderer because nobody was killed or seriously injured in the "accident" as we see on the news later that night. He goes to tell his uncle, who's in his office, but is stopped when Henry comes up to him and threatens that if Mark says anything, he will only twist it around to make it sound like it was Mark's idea.  

Cutest fight ever!
The two boys get into a fight after Henry's little sister comes into their room and Henry grabs her by the ears to teach her a lesson about entering his room without permission. Mark attacks him and they get into a hair pulling brawl. It's interesting that whenever they get into a physical altercation, it's always Mark who starts them. Henry threatens that something might happen to Connie before Susan enters the room and tells them to stop fighting and Henry puts on his boyish charm and says they were only playing. Please, kid. You're not fooling anyone with your blond hair and cable knit sweater! His mom says, "It looks like you two were trying to kill each other!" (Since when does pulling someone's hair look like you're trying to kill them?)

Henry causes more mayhem when they're all eating lunch the next day, announcing to his parents that Mark wants to move into Richard's room. Mark knows this is a sore subject, especially for Susan, and vehemently denies this but they're not even listening. Okay, if I were him and was offered another room on the third floor instead (they live in a ridiculously massive house), I would jump at the chance because I wouldn't want to stay in the same room as some psychopath! No, thank you! Even though I feel really bad for Mark, I do laugh every time Henry goads him. I just think it's so funny. ("I don't want to move in there." "Now, Mark, don't lie.") I'm a terrible person! Poor Mark. 

That night, the parents go out to dinner and the three kids are left....wait for it....HOME ALONE! Connie announces they're going to play hide-and-seek. Henry turns out all the lights not even after his parents are out of sight. Mark runs into Henry who shines a flashlight in his face and says, "Hey, no fair!" and Henry does the creepy flashlight lighting up his face move and says, "No fair? What do you think this is, a game?" Yeah, L'il Frodo, what do you think this is, a game? Even though they were both in the same room at that moment, the next scene shows both of them in separate parts of the house looking for Connie. You think Mark would stick with Henry to make sure nothing happens...duh. After he hears a scream from the attic he runs up and sees Connie pinned down by Henry. But she's laughing and he's just tickling her.

After an adorable scene of Mark reading Madeline to Connie (he convinced her to hear a bedtime story instead of keep playing their game), Henry mocks him with, "That was a darling story, Mark." So mean, but so funny! (And it was darling!) He tries to enter her room, but Mark does his best "You shall not pass!", but fails because his cousin just shoves him aside. Henry once again threatens that something might happen to his sister and Mark sleeps on her floor to "watch" her, only this doesn't quite work because when he wakes up the next morning, he finds out that Henry has taken her ice-skating and he runs all the way to the pond where Henry has flung his sister towards the thin ice and she falls in. Funny how a little girl stands on the ice and falls in, then when two grown men skate out with axes to get her out, they don't even fall through. Huh?! Connie is fine, but Mark figures it's probably time to tell someone and when he does tell his aunt, she only slaps him and says how dare he accuse her beautiful, adorable, angelic, precious, most cherished son of doing something so monstrous and to NEVER come to her with these LIES again! Poor Mark! So he calls his dad and pleads for him to get back soon because "Henry's been doing things, terrible things!" and "He's got everyone fooled...everyone thinks he's this great kid, but he's really evil." I laughed so hard at his dad's response: "EVIL!?!?!?" That would probably be how I would react too. I mean, that's a pretty loaded word! Poor darling Mark; nobody believes him. His dad tells him to tell Dr. Davenport so he goes to her house only to find Henry is already there and she's like, "Mark! Henry says you two have been having some problems!" and he goes, "HE'S the problem!" and "He's got you fooled like everyone else!" and runs off. Henry pretends to be "concerned" for Mark, saying he scares him sometimes and Dr. D asks him to explain everything, so Small Wonder is like, "Everything?" It is presumed that he tells her everything "Mark" has done, although I do wonder why she never called the parents and told them to keep their nephew under lock and key. But seriously, this woman, who is suppose to be a child psychologist (and she's pretty old so she's probably been doing this for quite a few years!) can't tell when she's being manipulated by a child! In the words of Mac's best friend from another movie, "Dr. Davenport, are you sure those are yours?"

Later, Mark tells his cousin, "Sooner or later, they're going to find out about you" and that he already told his mom, but Henry isn't concerned because "She's my mom, not yours" and Mark is like, "No, she's my mom now" and I'm thinking, Let's not goad the sociopath! This does not make Henry happy and he says, "Hey, Mark, don't f**k with me." And this is after he tells Mark that his mom is maggot food. OMG, what did Elijah ever do to you, Macaulay? Besides replace you as a last minute presenter at the '94 Oscars because your dad was being too difficult and wanted all these changes, so they yanked you from the spot.

That night, Mark wakes up to find Henry's bed empty (WHY IS HE STILL SHARING THE SAME ROOM WITH A PSYCHOPATH!!?!) and goes downstairs to discover the refrigerator door open and Henry sneaks up on him and insinuates that he might have put something in his family's food and Mark starts throwing everything in the garbage disposal while Henry gets his parents. I'm pretty sure this is a crime punishable by death in Hobbiton! "Young Mr. Frodo, not the spaghetti and meatballs!" And we all know there's going to be hell to pay if he throws away any cheese pizzas! Okay, all stupid jokes aside, it actually is quite a disturbing and sad scene. They see Mark as this disturbed kid who's just gone off the deep end and is accusing their son of trying to poison them.

We need to talk about Kevin Henry
After last night's incident and what Mark told her, Susan finally decides to get a clue and snoop around in Henry's creepy Unibomber shed. There she finds a rubber duck that belonged to Richard. The worst thing Henry does is offscreen. I'm guessing this takes place in the year before the movie is set (they never really tell you when it happened). We learn that his little brother (who I think was at least two?) drowned in six inches of water when Susan was giving him a bath and left the room to answer the phone. (Why couldn't she just let the phone ring?) We also learn that Henry was the only other person in the house. Hmmm... Now Henry never admits he killed his brother (who is played by Rory Culkin in a photo), but it's pretty obvious. When his mom straight out asks him if he killed Richard, he says, "What if I did?" That is cold, kid! When he comes in the shed, his mother confronts him about the duck and asks him about it, saying, "You know I was looking for this" and Henry tries to put on his boyish charm again, saying he wanted something to remember Richard by and can he have it back and his mom is like, "No, you can't have it BACK!" and they get in a tug-of-war with the duck and he grabs it and runs to the well and drops it down there.

Okay, it's time to psychoanalysis this movie. There's this scene earlier where Mark is talking to Dr. Davenport and he asks her what makes people evil and she tells him that's "a word people use when they've given up trying to understand someone" and "There's a reason for everything." Mark doesn't think there's a reason for Henry's evilness; he thinks it's just the way he is. As much crap as I've given the good doctor, I'm actually on her side here. I think there is a REASON for why Henry is such an awful child. I just don't think they executed it as well as they could have. (Way to drop the ball, McEwan!) I think he killed his brother because he was jealous of the attention his parents were giving him. When his mom questions him about the duck he  says, "It was mine before it was his." He did not like that his little brother had his old toys, but most importantly he did not like that his little brother had his parents' attention. This is evident by the way Henry is extremely jealous any time Mark has a bonding moment with Susan. There is a very telling line Henry tells Mark in the drain pipe after the traffic accident he causes. Mark is clearly upset about what has just happened and Henry says to him, "I feel sorry for you, Mark, you just don't know how to have fun" to which Mark replies with an astounded, "What?" and Henry says, "It's because you're scared all the time. I know. I used to be scared too. That was before I found out." This right here tells us that Henry wasn't ALWAYS a little turd and that once upon a time he was a "normal" kid, or at least not a little terror! Mark says, "Found out what?" and Henry tells him, "That once you realize you can do anything, you can fly. You're free. Nobody can touch you". He gives his cousin the philosophical advice of, "Mark, don't be afraid to fly" to which Mark just stares at him in horror and tells him, "You're sick." Maybe if Henry had been an only child, he would have been okay?

Now that his mom has figured out his EVIL ways, Henry has plans to off her. Wait a minute...he killed his brother, tried to kill his sister, and is now planning to kill his mother? Makes the line "I made my family disappear!" sound REALLY creepy! But first he must work on his "crying" skills so he can at least pretend to be sad when she "accidentally" dies. When he asks Mark if he cried at his mom's funeral, Mark says, "You wouldn't hurt her!" and Henry goads him, once again making me laugh. He says, "Do you really think I'd hurt my own - oh, wait. I just remembered. She's not my mom anymore, she's your. Isn't that what you said? She's your mother now. My mom, your mom, what the hell? We'll both miss her." This displeases Huck Finn so he grabs a pair of scissors and lunges at Richie Rich, threatening to kill him. Well, at that moment, Wallace comes in the room and sees his nephew pinning his son down with a pair of scissors at his throat. This does not look good for Mark. His uncle grabs him and says, "This is serious; you could have hurt him!" and Mark's like, "He's the one who wants to hurt people!" Uh huh. Says the kid wielding the sharp object at the other kid's throat! And Henry's like, "I'm sorry you don't want to be friends, Mark!" Nicely played, kid. 

Despite Mark's pleas for help, Wallace locks him in his office and tells him he's going to call Dr. Davenport. He ends up breaking a window with a chair when he sees Henry and Susan going for a walk. His uncle and Dr. D try to stop him, but he just runs past them out of the room.

By this time, Henry has pushed his mom off a cliff and she manages to land on a narrow ledge a few feet down. Henry is about to throw a heavy rock at her, but Mark shows up right at that second (what great timing that kid has!) and attacks his cousin. They fight dangerously close to the edge of the cliff (and this time it actually looks like they're trying to kill each other!) while Susan climbs back up. She gets back up just at the moment her son and nephew start to tumble off the cliff and she runs and grabs both of them. We now have what is probably the best ending ever in cinematic history. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but this ending is amazing! She has to choose between her first born, her own flesh and blood, who she still loves despite his, uh, horribleness. And then there's her nephew, who she does like, but he's not even blood related to her! And the last time she saw him was ten years ago. Poor Mark; no wonder he looks so terrified! While Henry has a pretty good grip on her and is saying, "Mom, I need your other hand" and "I love you, Mom", Susan's grip on Mark is slipping (he's only holding onto her with one hand while Henry is using both of his). She knows any second Mark is going to slip so she looks at Henry with a sad and apologetic look and lets go of him. I mean, she made the right choice. Her son pretty much admitted he killed his little brother and he tried to kill her, let's not forget that! And if her nephew hadn't shown up at that point, she'd be dead...I think she owes him that much! And I am cackling evilly as he screams while he plummets to the rocky shore below. That's got to be a pretty horrible way to go, but the little sh*t deserved it. Okay, do yourself a favor and watch this brilliant video. It is so hilarious!

So it's been almost 23 years since this movie came out and I was wondering if Macaulay and Elijah have talked about their experience on this movie (besides the adorable behind the scenes feature on the DVD they did while they were filming it) and the answer is yes, yes they have. The Internet and YouTube are amazing tools. I found an interview Macaulay did with Larry King about ten or eleven years after The Good Son came out. People could call in and ask questions. One woman asked him how he made such a switch from being in a movie like Home Alone to The Good Son. He said it was a movie he really wanted to do because it was different than anything else he had ever done before (although I could argue that Kevin and Henry aren't that much different!) He wanted to see if he could play a part like that and if he could "go to those places". I had a feeling he was going to add more, but stupid Larry King had to change the subject completely! Ugh! Elijah did a Q&A a couple years ago and someone asked him what it was like working on that movie and he said he was really excited about it because it was the first really "dark" movie he had ever done. (Although I would argue Radio Flyer is pretty dark and that came out a year and a half prior). He said his mom was okay with him being in the movie since he did not play the evil kid. (Very interesting since Mac's dad was adamant about his son playing the evil kid!) He talked about the ending where he and Macaulay are hanging off the cliff and said while it was a fun scene to shoot, it was also scary because when he was suppose to be slipping, the stunt person would move the cable he was attached to and drop him a little bit. He said this scene was filmed over Lake Superior in northern Minnesota (which I already knew) and that below them were "safety boats", only they had to keep them out of frame so they weren't exactly that close. Okay, I'm sorry, but if someone fell from that cliff and hit those rocks, I don't think any "safety boats" are going to be any help! But I suppose they had to cover all their bases and of course everything was safe. They're not going to let two twelve-year-olds hang off of a cliff if they didn't think it was safe!

1993 just called!

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