Christina (Dunne) and David Phelps (McCrea) are in love and recently married. Before they go to live in New York City, David wants to visit his mother, Mrs. Phelps (Hope). At their New England home, they meet David's brother Robert (Eric Linden) and his fiancee, Hester (Dee) who are dangerously close to splitting because of Mrs. Phelps interference. And very soon, Mrs. Phelps makes it obvious that she will stop at nothing to break up her sons' respective relationships.
This film shows the following tropes:
- Chosen Conception Partner: Although half kidding and half serious, Hester says she wants lots and lots of babies and can only have some if shes married to Robert. Mrs. Phelps doesnt take kindly to this and soon plants the idea in Robert to break up with Hester.
- Control Freak: Mrs. Phelps wants Robert to continue living in their home, and she tries to manipulate David into buying and developing a piece of land not far from their home.
- Danger: Thin Ice: Unable to cope with the oppressive atmosphere, Hester runs away at night, running over the frozen lake. Its dark, so she failed to see the fishing hole.
- Freudian Excuse: Mrs. Phelps married for money, not for love. Her husband afforded her no love, so she transferred that romantic ideal to her sons, creating, shall we say, a very unhealthy co-dependence.
- Hot Scientist: Christina is a biology scientist, but no more detail is given as to what she does in biology.
- Manipulative Bitch: Mrs. Phelps uses her heart condition to manipulate her sons into doing her bidding.
- Meddling Parents: Mrs. Phelps breaks up Hester and Roberts engagement and almost breaks up Christina and Davids marriage.
- My Beloved Smother: Robert is annoyed but eventually succumbs to his mother's manipulations. David, luckily, has Christina to point out the unhealthy relationship and save him from it.
- Parental Incest: Not quite taken to a sexual extreme but Mrs. Phelps hugs and kisses her sons in a very uncomfortable, unnatural way. She also makes it a point to drive away any women that come their way but she's met her match with Christina.Can you deny that you're outraged by their impulses to other women?
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Christinas no-nonsense self at work:Oh, I know, Mrs. Phelps, the legend of yourself as a great woman youve built up these past 30 years for your sons to worship, but it hasnt taken me long to see that youre not fit to be anyones mother. [ ] and I begin to say that if my baby ever feels toward you like your sons, I hope someone takes a little enamel pistol and shoots me with it because I deserve it. [ ] But can you deny that you disapprove of any movements your sons may take for independence? Can you deny that your outraged by their impulses to other women?