AskDefine | Define parenthood

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parenthood n : the state of being a parent; "to everyone's surprise, parenthood reformed the man" [syn: parentage]

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  1. the state of being a parent


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Extensive Definition

The film was directed by Ron Howard; story by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel & Ron Howard, and screenplay by Ganz & Mandel. It was produced by Brian Grazer. Much of the film is based on the family and parenting experiences of Howard, Ganz, Mandel, and Grazer, who have at least 14 children among the four of them.
The film was adapted into a television show in 1990. The television version was a critical flop and was quickly cancelled, but is notable for featuring an unusual number of people who at the time were unheard of but later became famous. One of the writers on the show was Joss Whedon. The cast featured child actors Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, Alisan Porter, and Thora Birch. The show was featured on the now-defunct cable network Trio in 2005 as part of their "Brilliant But Cancelled" series of shows that were cancelled before their time.


The story revolves around Gil Buckman (Steve Martin), a 35-year old neurotic sales executive trying to balance the pressures of raising a family in the suburbs of St Louis and succeeding in his career. Among Gil's issues is a family of relatives who all face their own obstacles related to family and raising children such as Gil's wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen), his gruff and distant father, Frank (Jason Robards) and an assortment of other colorful relatives in a movie that raises the question: How easy is it to raise a family when you're also trying to have your own life?
Gil never overworks himself, because he wants to be an active father, rather than a distant one like his own father was. His relationship with his father remains tense. His parenting skills are put under more pressure when he finds out that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child whom he is unsure of, and that his eldest son, Kevin, may have emotional problems [recognizably, in retrospect, a mild form of autism] and may need to be placed in special classes or a private school if his issues don't get better. Given Kevin's issues, and some more minor issues with his other two children, Gil begins to blame himself and deeply question his abilities as a father. In addition, the financial burdens of another child and office politics at work may mean becoming the workaholic he despised his own father for being. When his father comes to Gil for advice on how to deal with Larry (Gil's wayward brother) and says he is asking Gil's advice because Gil is a good father, Gil has some closure about his feelings toward his father. Although this was a first step for Gil to realize that kids don't come with an instruction manual, it is grandma and his wife that finally get him to relax and enjoy what life brings rather than over analyze it.
His sister Helen (Dianne Wiest) is divorced and her ex-husband is not involved with their children. He has a new family and wants nothing to do with Garry or Julie. At first, Garry appears to be a very disturbed boy (Joaquin Phoenix, credited as Leaf Phoenix). He is quiet, uninvolved and likes to be alone with a mysterious paper bag. As the story evolves, we find out that Garry is beginning to go through puberty and is experiencing typical things of boys his age. His reaction to this is exacerbated because he has no relationship with his father. Helen's daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton) is still in high school, but struggling even though she got 1300 on her SATs. She is already having a sexual relationship with her nitwit boyfriend Tod (Keanu Reeves), and the two of them want to unrealistically start their lives together, despite his lack of ambition and direction. They get married and begin to live at her mother's house. Tod's presence in the house provides much needed comfort to Garry who begins to be happy after finally being told that what he has been going through is perfectly normal. Helen is at first very insecure about her parenting abilities at the beginning of the film, but as she realizes that her kids are more adjusted than what she thought given the parental abandonment they've endured. Her strength grows and is demonstrated in how she supports and guides her daughter when Tod is in a drag racing accident. Helen begins to date and ultimately marries Garry's biology teacher who becomes the loving father figure that especially Garry was so desperate to have.
Gil's other sister, Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) is a high school science teacher married to an intelligent but arrogant husband, Nathan (Rick Moranis). They have a sweet, precocious daughter, Patty. Susan wants more children, but her husband is overly obsessed with their daughter's cognitive development and as a result, she is unable to relate to other children. Susan lashes out by eating junk food hidden in the closet, and by compromising her diaphragm as a plan to get pregnant despite her husband's wishes. She eventually gets so frustrated with the situation that she leaves her family, causing Patty to struggle with her work and Nathan to eventually come to her class and win her back. The two then start to raise Patty like a normal child.
Finally, Gil's youngest sibling is his brother Larry (Tom Hulce) who, rather than settle into a career, has drifted through life trying to cash in on get-rich-quick schemes. Though he is the black sheep of the family, he is their father's favorite. He has recently shown up, along with his bi-racial son, Cool (who was the result of a brief affair with a Las Vegas showgirl), and wants to borrow money from his father both for another of his get-rich-quick schemes and to pay off gambling debts. His father decides to help him, but in the process recognizes that his son will never stop wasting his life. Frank agrees to keep Cool after he is left in his care and realizes that he and his wife would be raising him.
Helen Shaw has a small supportive role as Gil's lovable grandmother who, despite her borderline senility, has flashes of insightful family philosophy. In particular, she metaphorically describes how she would rather experience all the surprises, fear and excitement of a roller coaster over the boring merry-go-round.
The film ends on a sentimental note with a new generation of Buckman children being born and the personal growth of the parents. For example, Frank lovingly hugs and cuddles his grandson Cool demonstrating that he changed his distant ways. The message of the film is seemingly that despite a family's hectic problems, there is nothing better than being part of it and everyone has insecurities about their parenting skills.


"You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father."
"What's wrong with getting rich quick? Quick is the best way to get rich!"
"Why did you make me play second base!"
"(Parenthood) never ends. It's like your aunt Edna's ass, it goes on forever and it's just as frightening."
"What's the birthday boy's name? Cuz I can write it across my breasts."
"See! You upset your brother!"
"As for the [pornographic] tapes, I don't know what to say. I can only assume you watched them because you're interested in sex. Or filmmaking."
"If Grandma is so brilliant, how come she's outside sitting in our neighbor's car?"
Gil: What's the matter, honey? You don't feel so good?
Taylor: Yeah.
Gil: You feel like you wanna throw up?
Taylor: O.K.
[vomits all over Gil's shirt, and starts to cry]
Karen: Oh Taylor, baby … Gil, why are you standing there?
Gil: I'm waiting for her head to spin around.


  • The movie poster / DVD artwork was lampooned by the 1990 film Problem Child, another Universal Pictures release, which was directed by Dennis Dugan, who co-starred in this film as Gil's abrasive boss.
  • The birthday party in the movie was filmed at Mystery Fun House in Florida.
  • David A. Siegel, the owner of Westgate Resorts and Mystery Fun House, played the pizza delivery person.
  • At one point, Gil's grandmother, played by Helen Shaw, says "When I was born, Grover Cleveland was president!" Shaw actually was born on July 25, 1897, just four months after the end of the second Cleveland administration.
  • The dream sequence of a clock-tower sniper was filmed at the University of Florida.
  • Back to the Future was seen on the cover of a VHS tape. Not only is it another Universal pictures release, Mary Steenburgen would be starring in the second sequel that came out the next year after this release.
  • At one point in the film, Gil says, "Let's have a dozen [kids] and pretend they're doughnuts!" in response to hearing that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child. Years later, Steve Martin starred in Cheaper by the Dozen in which his character actually did have a dozen kids.
  • This movie is often used in both High School (also in Australia) and Collegiate Psychology classes in order to analyze and explain differences in Diana Baumrind's parenting styles.
  • Ron Howard's brother, Clint Howard, continues his tradition of playing unlikable characters in his brother's films, here playing an unsupportive (and possibly drunk) Little League parent who ridicules Gil for his team's poor performance
  • Martha Plimpton and Joaquin Phoenix (who play siblings Julie and Garry Buckman) were very much connected before filming began with Plimpton being the long time girlfriend of River Phoenix, Joaquin's older brother. Keanu Reeves, who played Plimptons on-screen boyfriend 'Todd, would make firm friends with the elder Phoenix and the two would go on to star together in I Love You To Death (1990) and My Own Private Idaho (1991).

See also

External links

parenthood in German: Eine Wahnsinnsfamilie
parenthood in Russian: Родители (фильм)
parenthood in Swedish: Föräldraskap
parenthood in Polish: Spokojnie, tatuśku
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