"Mermaids,"(1990) starring the well-known singer-actress-entertainer Cher, is another good romantic comedy that came along on the heels of the 1980s. The clarion-voiced Cher, of course, has been singing since the mid-60's, with her then-husband, Sonny Bono and without him, and has had many chart-topping hits; they had a widely popular television show in the 1970s. The actress won an Oscar for "Moonstruck," also made "Silkwood," "The Witches of Eastwood," and "Mask."
"Mermaids" is, without doubt, a chick flick. It was orignally meant to be the Scandinavian director Lasse Hallstrom's American film debut; however, Cher didn't care for his work. Neither did she care for Frank Oz's. So it was directed by former actor Richard Benjamin. Unfortunately, many sophisticates can't say "Richard Benjamin," without, in the same breath, declaring "tv sitcom." And when it's a chick flick too, well, the scorn.
The movie also stars the English Bob Hoskins, playing Lou Landsky, lusty, unlikely love interest to Cher's Mrs. Rachel Flax. The child Christina Ricci made her debut as Kate, Mrs. Flax's younger daughter, born to swim. Winona Ryder holds the camera as the older daughter, Charlotte, in heavy flirtation with Catholism although the Flaxes are Jewish. Ryder was then a child star, more particularly a teenage star, until Angelina Jolie stole "Girl Interrupted," out from under her, and she had her regrettable adventure in shoplifting. Oddly enough, the English teenage star Emily Lloyd had been signed to play this part, but she was blond. Cher, who evidently had a lot of say on this picture, thought viewers were unlikely to accept a blond as her screen daughter. So Ryder was brought in, and Lloyd received a studio settlement.
The picture's set in a lovingly recreated 1963, and treats the major world event of that year, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with considerable discretion and grace. Mrs. Flax is a hot-blooded single mother who gets herself into talked-about trouble with men, then moves on to the next randomly-selected town. Her daughters just must get in the car. We open with the Flaxes' relocation to a pretty Massachusetts coastal town, where Mrs. Flax and, this time, her older daughter, will meet men. Kate will win swim meets.
The cinematography gives us plenty of pretty. The soundtrack's chock-a-block with early 60's hits. Included on the soundtrack, for sure, is Cher's adaptation of "The Shoop Shoop Song," initially made a hit by Little Eva; now far better known as "It's In His Kiss," by Cher. The script's witty: in an often-quoted line, Flax dismisses one of her daughter's teachers as a guy who drives an Edsel. Does "Mermaids" have the heart of a sitcom? Well, it has heart, for sure-- it's really about family. And I don't watch tv sitcoms, can't abide them, but I love this movie. The final, touching scenes, where the Flaxes dance around their kitchen, setting the table to Jimmy Soul's irresistible "If You Want to be Happy the Rest of Your Life, Never Make a Pretty Woman Your Wife," perfectly express the relaxed intimacy, and joy, of family life, and present us another moving, off-handed movie dance scene.