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Film / Mermaids

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Left to right: Charlotte, Rachel, Kate, Lou.

"Charlotte, I know you're planning a celibate life, but with half my chromosomes, I think that might be tough."
Rachel Flax
"Mom Is Many Things. . .Normal Isn't One of Them."
Movie Tagline

Mermaids is a 1990 dramedy directed by Richard Benjamin, starring Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder (who was nominated for a Golden Globe), and Christina Ricci (in her first film role).

In the early 1960s, Rachel Flax (Cher) is what used to be called a "loose woman". She's also the mother of Charlotte (Ryder) and Kate (Ricci), who are forced to move from town to town to escape their mother's failed relationships. Defiantly sexy and nonmaternal, Mrs. Flax is a constant source of embarassment to the older Charlotte, who turns to prudish dress and behavior in reaction to her mother's reputation. Charlotte fantasizes about being a nun, and is thrilled when their move to Massachusetts puts them a stone's throw away from an actual convent. Yet proving to be even more thrilling is the handsome handyman Joe (Michael Schoeffling), who works for the nuns. Charlotte is terrified that her attraction to him means she'll turn out just like her mother.


Meanwhile, her mother is having some problems of her own. The town's genial shoe salesman, Lou Landsky (Hoskins), seems good for a few laughs. Unfortunately, he digs his heels in and wants a real relationship with Rachel, and doesn't go away no matter how badly she behaves.

Interestingly, this movie was 110 minutes long and made $110 million, meaning that each minute of the film was worth exactly one million dollars.

Not to be confused with a 2003 film of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • All Women Love Shoes
    Charlotte: I don't want any.
    Rachel: Don't be ridiculous, Charlotte. Every woman wants new shoes.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After the fight between her and Charlotte.
    Rachel: If you hate living my life so much, why are you trying your damnedest to make the same mistakes?
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Charlotte gives one to her mother during a fight, leading to her mother slapping her.
    Rachel: Great story! What's your major, town tramp?!
    Charlotte: No, Mom, the town already has one!
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Rachel gives one to her daughter Charlotte during a fight.
  • Auto Erotica: Early in the film, we see a shot of Mrs. Flax and her boss in a car that's rocking while audible moans can be heard. We then see that they were just passionately making out, and it's likely that had Mrs. Flax not stopped, sex would've occurred.
  • Betty and Veronica: Charlotte (the Betty) in comparison to her mother Rachel (the Veronica) over Joe (the Archie).
  • But Now I Must Go: Joe leaves town and bids goodbye with Charlotte after everything that's happened.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Charlotte's first time having sex happens at the same time that Kate almost drowns.
  • Can't Spit It Out: Being unable to tell her mother that she thinks she's pregnant (from a kiss), Charlotte steals her mother's car and runs away.
  • Censor Suds: Seen in a bath scene with Mrs. Flax near the start of the film, with a clump of suds obscuring her breasts.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Charlotte.
  • Disappeared Dad: Mr. Flax. Charlotte only has one memory of someone whom she thinks is him, though that's called into question by Rachel's claim that he left while she was in labor.
  • First-Person Smartass: Charlotte, serving as the film narrator.
  • Freudian Excuse: The conflict between Mrs. Flax and Charlotte is a driving force of the story.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Mrs. Flax. Somewhat justified in that Charlotte's 15 and Kate's somewhere between 7 and 10.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Charlotte becomes this after seeing her mother kiss Joe on New Year's Eve.
  • Hollywood Nuns
  • Hypocrite: After Charlotte runs away and Rachel and Lou fight about it, Rachel vows to pack up and leave herself if Charlotte returns. Lou calls her out on it.
  • Indirect Kiss: "Now my lips are touching his," Charlotte narrates while drinking from Joe's thermos.
  • Informed Judaism: The Flaxes. As Charlotte notes, her mother doesn't believe in following any traditions.
  • Love Triangle: Briefly between Rachel, Joe and Charlotte.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Charlotte and Joe consummate their attraction towards one another in the church's bell tower.
  • Meat-O-Vision: After religiously fasting for so many days, Charlotte collapses from malnutrition and begins to hallucinate her Virgin Mary statue having a big pregnant belly.
  • Miss Conception: Charlotte thinks she gets pregnant from kissing.
  • Mrs. Robinson: After being given a ride home, Rachel kisses Joe (Charlotte's love interest). Charlotte sees this from the window and is not happy about it.
  • Nice Guy: Lou is probably the nicest adult in the movie, quick to dote on the girls as though they'd always been his daughters and not hesitating to help find Charlotte when she runs away. And judging by the end, it seems as though Mrs. Flax finally gives into the idea of a long-term relationship with him.
  • Nonindicative Name: Don't go into this movie expecting it to be about mermaids. The closest thing the film gets referenced to the title is Rachel's new year's eve costume as a mermaid and Kate's swimming profession.
  • Not So Different: Despite hating her mother and resenting her lifestyle, Charlotte becomes a lot like her mother Rachel after losing her virginity to Joe and gaining a reputation in town.
  • Oh, Crap!: Charlotte, when her mother arrives at the hospital, sees her with Joe and figures out what has happened.
  • Olympic Swimmer: Kate aspires to be one, just like her father.
  • Only Sane Woman: Charlotte feels like she can be this, especially when dealing with Mrs. Flax.
    Charlotte: Sometimes, I feel like you're the child and I'm the grown-up.
  • Really Gets Around: Mrs. Flax. The Flaxs move frequently as a result of Mrs. Flax escaping her failed relationships, and at the start of the film Charlotte says that they've moved 18 times.
    Mrs. Flax: Okay, how do I look?
    Charlotte: Like a woman about to go forth in sin.
    Mrs. Flax: Oh good, exactly the look I was hoping for.
    • Charlotte's classmate Mary aspires to become this, as she brags about oral sex to her friends in the school restroom and even tells Charlotte that she wishes to become like Rachel Flax.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: After Kate almost drowns, Rachel packs a suitcase for Kate and almost leaves only for Charlotte to come yelling back at her. Then Rachel says they should all pack up and move altogether to avoid the town talking about Joe and Charlotte.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    Mrs. Flax: We're gonna play my favorite game: "who's the worst mother in the world?" Oh now, don't tell me, let me guess, who could it be? Could it be — ME?
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Charlotte. She ultimately does have sex with Joe.
  • Stacy's Mom: Rachel turns many a head even as a single 30-something mother of two. Charlotte believes her mother of being this after seeing her talk with Joe and kiss him on New Year's Eve.
  • Teen Pregnancy: After having a big fight with Charlotte, Rachel calms down and explains to her daughter how old she was when she gave birth to her and how she can relate.
    Mrs. Flax: You know, you are just one year younger than I was when I had you. (Beat) If you hate living my life, why are you trying your damnedest to make the same mistakes? How do you feel about this guy?
  • The '60s: The film begins in early fall 1963.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Rachel chews Charlotte out for her actions leading to Kate almost drowning.
    Rachel: (suddenly yelling) What the hell you were thinking?! She could've died! Your sister, who you should've been looking after! What the hell was she doing out there? What the hell were you doing out there? Oh, I know what you were doing out there. The whole goddamn town knows what you were doing!
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Averted. In the opening monologue Charlotte narrates how she originally wanted to name her sister Kate after Saint Gobnait the virgin beekeeper but Rachel decided against it and named her Kate instead.
    Charlotte: (narrating) I wanted to name her after Saint Gobnait the virgin beekeeper but our mother, Mrs. Flax, thought I was a little peculiar.
  • World of Snark


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