James Cole Clay // Film Critic
MOM AND DAD
Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage is unhinged. No, really. This guy is a singular cinematic presence, one that can never be replicated. Say what you will, but he’s a fearless performer that may be self-aware of his craziness. So let’s just pretend he’s living in his own bubble of “Caginess.”
His latest to surface is MOM AND DAD, a film starring Cage and Selma Blair (HELLBOY) and directed by Brian Taylor (CRANK SERIES), where a mob of parents are inexplicably hypnotized into killing their children. It’s completely deranged and in poor taste, but that’s kind of the point. It’s played to be a jet black comedy focusing on the exhaustion of family life. It’s not all picnics, birthday parties and home movies. MOM AND DAD knows that unconditional love is absolutely exhausting. Brian Taylor decides that its time to cut that down and lay waste to the nuclear family as we know it.
This isn’t going to be everybody’s idea of fun. For example, in the most disturbing scene where a mother attempts to smother a new born, it doesn’t serve any sort of purpose other than to serve the director’s vision. While that’s enough to balk at, for sure, I’m a filmgoer that doesn’t endorse shock-value just for the sake of it. However, I am all for pushing boundaries and having the audience be put in compromising moral positions. For better or for worse, Taylor has always done this quite well. (NOTE: No babies are actually harmed on screen.)
MOM AND DAD is a messy film, but Cage and Blair are pros at campy charm, especially the former who we will have to discuss more about briefly. For all intents and purposes, they are a believable couple who know when to play it straight and when to ham it up. Blair has a moment where she gleefully waves to an invisible neighbor off-screen while she’s checking the dumpster for dead bodies. It highlights how funny and messed up this film can be.
As the movie merrily rolls along at a blistering pace, many aspects of the world are presented with reckless abandon. It reminded me of somebody taking a four-course Italian meal and just throwing it all against the wall just to see what happens. Taylor is constantly exploiting his world, seemingly giving into every whim. This is not a film that is looking for restraint. It has Cage destroying a pool table while singing the Hokey Pokey for god’s sake.
Finally the main event, Nicolas Cage. He’s truly a special actor who has no limits. The very little acting choices he makes – from licking a beer can, to weird and sudden inflections in his voice – go to show that he’s really in touch with a part of his brain the world must be missing.
Taylor’s work is a far cry from the mainstream, but these are the kind of films that keep cinema interesting. At one point in the film, Blair’s character says, “Nobody under 30 goes to the movies anyways.” Yes, while that may be true, this is a film people will slowly discover on streaming. MOM AND DAD won’t be an instant cult classic, but it will make you think twice before being rude to your parents at dinner.
MOM AND DAD opens in limited release on January 19.