Mermaids (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Benjamin
Produced by Lauren Lloyd
Wallis Nicita
Patrick J. Palmer
Suzanne Rothbaum
Written by Patty Dann (book)
June Roberts (screenplay)
Starring Cher
Bob Hoskins
Winona Ryder
Christina Ricci
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Howard Atherton
Editing by Jacqueline Cambas
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • December 14, 1990 (1990-12-14)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $35,419,397

Mermaids is a 1990 American comedy-drama film directed by Richard Benjamin and starring Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder (who was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress for her role), and Christina Ricci in her first film role. The film is based on the 1986 novel of the same title written by Patty Dann.


The film is narrated in the first person by Charlotte Flax, a 15-year-old girl living with her glamorous but eccentric mother, Rachel (whom she calls "Mrs. Flax"), and younger sister, Kate. Kate calls her mother by her given name. The narration begins in early fall 1963, just as Rachel's latest fling with her married employer ends and she decides to relocate once again. This time, she and the girls move into a new home near a convent in the small town of Eastport, Massachusetts. Charlotte has an obsession with Catholicism and idolizes the nuns living in the convent. She is always reminded by Rachel, "Charlotte, we're Jewish." Kate, on the other hand, loves oceans and swimming and apparently learned to do so while she was a baby. She won many swimming competitions.

In the new town, Charlotte is especially interested in Joe, the 26-year-old handsome caretaker of the convent and local school bus driver while Rachel falls in love with a local shop owner named Lou. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Charlotte kisses Joe in the bell tower where he rings the church bell. After the encounter, she begins fasting in order to purge her sinful thoughts. She soon fears that God may be punishing her by making her pregnant, and (unable to talk to her mother about it) steals Rachel's car and runs away. She stops at the house of a 'nuclear perfect family' in Connecticut, and tells them her name is Sal Val and other wild stories (which they don't seem to completely believe). She is later picked up by Lou and taken home, where she goes to see an obstetrician and is told she is still a virgin.

At a New Year's costume party Lou asks Rachel to move in with him but she declines and they have a big fight. She asks Joe for a ride home after which she kisses him. Charlotte sees this and feels that her mother is trying to steal him away. That night she dresses up in Rachel's clothes and make up and she and Kate get drunk on wine. She then takes her to the convent to see Joe. Kate decides to stay behind and collect rocks while Charlotte goes up to the bell tower and ends up losing her virginity to Joe. Unbeknownst to them Kate falls into a river and almost drowns, but is saved by the nuns. Rachel is very angry at the turn of events and she and Charlotte have a big fight. She decides to move again to avoid embarrassment as the whole town is talking about Charlotte and Joe. However in the end Charlotte convinces her to stay there at least for another year.

Rachel stays behind and her relationship with Lou progresses. Joe moves away but keeps in touch via postcards, while Charlotte takes Greek myths as her new passion. Kate recovers from her accident (albeit with some deafness), and the movie ends with them setting the table for dinner (something they never did before Lou came into their lives).



The role of Charlotte was initially cast with Emily Lloyd. She had begun shooting the film when Cher supposedly made a complaint that she couldn’t play her daughter because she was too fair haired and Winona Ryder replaced her. This statement would be rather ironic given that all of Cher's real life children are blond/fair.[1]

Lloyd sued Orion Pictures Corporation and Mermaid Productions, reaching a settlement on the second day of the trial, 30 July 1991.

This was to have been the American film debut for director Lasse Hallström until he allegedly repeatedly clashed with lead actress Cher and was replaced first by Frank Oz and then by Richard Benjamin.

Boston television cowboy Rex Trailer had a minor but memorable role in the film as the obstetrician who says to Ryder's character, "Whatever gave you the idea that you were pregnant? You're still a virgin!"[2]

Critical response[edit]

Mermaids currently holds a rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes indicating largely positive reviews.[3]

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 her mother too self-absorbed to engage our sympathies. Crucially, they just aren't funny’.[4]

Vincent Canby from 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.’[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Parkinson interviews Cher". Retrieved 2012-12-15. 
  2. ^ Rex Trailer : the Boomtown years by Shirley Kawa-Jump Publisher: N. Attleborough, Mass : Covered Bridge Press, 1997. ISBN 0-924771-98-4, ISBN 978-0-924771-98-9
  3. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes Review". Rotten Tomatoes Website. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "Time Out New York". Time Out New York. 14 December 1990. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "New York Times Review". New York Times. 14 December 1990. Retrieved 26 June 2010. [dead link]

External links[edit]