Stepmom (1998 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Produced byMichael Barnathan
Chris Columbus
Wendy Finerman
Mark Radcliffe
Nikhilesh Mehra
Screenplay byGigi Levangie
Jessie Nelson
Steven Rogers
Karen Leigh Hopkins
Ron Bass
Story byGigi Levangie
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyDonald M. McAlpine
Edited byNeil Travis
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 25, 1998 (1998-12-25)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$159.7 million[2]

Stepmom is a 1998 American comedy-drama film directed by Chris Columbus and starring Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Ed Harris. Sarandon won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress and Harris won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, sharing the win with his role in The Truman Show.


Jackie (Susan Sarandon) and Luke Harrison (Ed Harris) are a divorced New York City couple struggling to help their children Anna (Jena Malone) and Ben (Liam Aiken) be happy with this sudden change of lifestyle. Luke, an attorney, is living with his new girlfriend, Isabel Kelly (Julia Roberts), a successful fashion photographer several years his junior.[3] Isabel tries hard to make Anna and Ben feel comfortable and happy with her, but Anna repeatedly rejects her overtures while Ben, who is generally kind to Isabel, adds extra complication with his mischievous nature. Isabel behaves with contempt tempered by caution around Jackie, believing she overcompensates for her divorce by spoiling her children.

Jackie, a former publisher turned stay-at-home mom, gives Isabel a cold reception, seeing her as an overly ambitious career woman. She also continues to harbor malice towards Luke, as seen in a confrontation about Isabel. After a long string of arguments and hurt feelings involving Isabel, Jackie, and Anna, Luke proposes to Isabel, making her Anna and Ben's soon-to-be official stepmother. This causes even more friction. Jackie is diagnosed with lymphoma, which is discovered to be terminal. She experiences a range of negative emotions, angry at the woman who she feels was responsible for breaking up her family, and angry that after all of the sacrifices she made for her family, she will never see her children grow up. Jackie actively sabotages Isabel's effort to bond with the children even to the point of refusing to allow her to take Anna to see a rock band that she likes and then taking her to the same concert a few weeks later herself.

Luke and Jackie later tell the children about the engagement, and Anna is furious. Jackie tells Luke and the children about her illness, resulting in Anna storming out. That night Jackie shows that she can be fun by dancing and singing with Anna and Ben.

Isabel and Anna continue to clash. Isabel gets the children a golden retriever puppy, and Anna says that she is allergic to dogs. Surprised, Isabel apologizes and says that her father didn't tell her that. After another argument between the two, Anna takes the dog inside her room, indicating she lied about her allergy. Eventually, Isabel and Anna's relationship improves. They start to bond over painting, when Isabel teaches Anna how to paint trees.

Jackie and Isabel disagree repeatedly, largely over Isabel's parenting. Ben goes missing on Isabel's watch and Jackie claims that she has never lost him, which she later admits to be untrue. When Anna has problems with a boy she once liked, the two women give opposite advice, causing more tension between Jackie and Isabel. They manage to establish a shaky truce, as they come to terms that Isabel will soon step into the role of a surrogate mother. The two women finally bond when Isabel reveals her admiration of Jackie's maternal instincts, while Jackie in turn praises Isabel's hipness as a means to connect with Anna. Isabel finally lets her guard down when she tells Jackie her biggest fear is that on Anna's wedding day, all Anna will wish for is her mother's presence. Jackie says her own fear is that Anna will forget her. Jackie explains to Isabel that, while Jackie will always have their past, Isabel will have their future.

The film ends with the family celebrating Christmas. Jackie, who is bedridden, is visited in her room by Ben and Anna. Individually, Jackie tells her children that though she will die, she will remain with them as long as they remember her. Later that day, Isabel is taking a family portrait of Luke and Jackie with the children. Jackie demonstrates her acceptance of Isabel by inviting her to join them, stating "let's get a photo with the whole family". Isabel does, and as the closing credits begin, both women are shown happily in a photo side by side, finally at peace with one another and with future events ahead of them (Jackie's death and Isabel's marriage to Luke).



Stepmom opened at No. 2 at the North American box office behind Patch Adams making $19.1 million USD in its opening weekend.[4] It stayed at the second spot for another week. The film grossed $91,137,662 in the United States[5] and $159,710,793 worldwide[1] from a budget of $50 million.

Stepmom received mixed reviews from critics.[6] It has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 88 reviews, with an average score of 5.33/10. The site's consensus reads: "Solid work from Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon isn't enough to save Stepmom from a story whose manipulations dilute the effectiveness of a potentially affecting drama".[7]

Susan Sarandon was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress. Ed Harris won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roles in Stepmom and The Truman Show.


The soundtrack to Stepmom was released on August 12, 1998 via Sony Classical label.

Film score by
ReleasedAugust 12, 1998 (1998-08-12)
LabelSony Classical SK 61649
ProducerJohn Williams
John Williams chronology
Saving Private Ryan
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
1."Always and Always"John Williams3:41
2."The Days Between"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening6:27
3."Time Spins Its Web"John Williams2:19
4."The Soccer Game"John Williams4:27
5."A Christmas Quilt"John Williams3:56
6."Isabel's Horse and Buggy"John Williams1:28
7."Taking Pictures"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening3:12
8."One Snowy Night"John Williams5:33
9."Ben's Antics"John Williams3:04
10."Isabel's Picture Gallery"John Williams3:44
11."Jackie and Isabel"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening2:59
12."Jackie's Secret"John Williams3:32
13."Bonding"John Williams3:55
14."Ain't No Mountain High Enough"Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell2:29
15."End Credits"John Williams6:16
Total length:53:30[8]


Karan Johar decided to adapt Stepmom for the Indian audience. Although he initially intended to buy the rights to the film, he eventually opted to co-produce it with Sony Pictures.[9] The version titled We Are Family (2010) starring Kajol, Arjun Rampal, and Kareena Kapoor was released to mixed reviews and received average returns.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Step mom budget,
  2. ^ Stepmom at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^
  4. ^ "'Patch Adams' Just What Holiday Ordered". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  5. ^ "Stepmom (1998)". Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  6. ^ "Stars Team for 'Step' Mother of All Weepies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  7. ^ Stepmom at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. ^ Stepmom Soundtrack AllMusic. Retrieved March 2, 2014
  9. ^ Arjun Rampal & Karan Johar talk about their new film 'We Are Family' BBC Asian Network. 4 September 2010.
  10. ^ "We Are Family Review". Archived from the original on 2011-01-21.
  11. ^ "Dabangg Dominates We Are Family Drops". 18 September 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010.

External links[edit]