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Monday, June 11, 2012

Mrs. Doubtfire

As of right now, I have no children of my own, but I have to admit that I would like to have at least one child at some point in my lifetime.  I have to admit that I really do enjoy the laughter of children.  I wouldn’t have volunteered in a kindergarten classroom eight years ago if I didn’t.

Of course, it helped that my nephew was a part of that class at the time.

The point is that I definitely can see myself becoming a father at some point in my lifetime.  Mind you, if I were to go the biological route, I would ideally have to find someone to have a child with because as far as we have come medically, they still haven’t found a way for a man to get pregnant.

Not that I would readily volunteer to do this, that is.

For whatever reason though, I admit that at some point, I’d love to have children.  Even if it doesn’t work out that I have a biological child, there’s always adoption or being a step-parent (though not if the step-children are trying to kill me).  Maybe it’s the fact that mostly everyone else I went to school with already has children and I feel like I’m one of the few who is missing out because I don’t have them yet that’s causing me to talk about this, but it’s just a dream I have. 

Anyway, I suppose you’re wondering what becoming a father has to do with the Monday Matinee for today.  Well, I’m glad you are wondering because I’m about to tell you. 

In a world where we have Maury Povich giving out thousands of paternity tests on his talk show trying to determine who baby daddies are, I consider myself quite fortunate that I have a father who was always there when I needed him.  We didn’t always get along with each other, and there were some instances in which we got into huge fights, but in the end, we still love and respect each other.  And, I would hope that if I have children one day, I’m the same way with them...well, minus all the huge fights.

In this movie, we’re going to meet a father who would literally do anything for his three children.  To him, his children are his whole world, and he wanted to make them happy.  Mind you, he didn’t exactly go about it the most mature way, but the children never once doubted his love for them.  So when a life-changing event happens, and the end result is that the devoted dad is kept apart from his children most of the time, he asks himself the following question.  “How far will a father go to make sure that he sees his children every day?”

That’s the question that will be answered as we take a look back at the 1993 film “Mrs. Doubtfire”.  The movie was directed by Chris Columbus, and starred Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, and Harvey Fierstein.  It was the second highest grossing film of 1993, right behind “Jurassic Park”, and it made well over $400 million at the box office.  It was loosely based on the 1987 Anne Fine novel “Alias Madame Doubtfire”.

Robin Williams played the role of Daniel Hillard, a struggling voice actor who could not hold down a job.  Luckily, his wife, Miranda (Field) worked a high-paying job at a design firm, so the Hillard family lived a comfortable lifestyle...well, as comfortable as one could be living with the often spontaneous Daniel.  But one thing was for certain.  Daniel absolutely loved his three children, Lydia (Lisa Jakub), Chris (Matthew Lawrence), and Natalie (Mara Wilson).

And when Chris’ 12th birthday came, Daniel really wanted to do something special for his birthday.  Something that Chris would never forget.

It was a nice idea.  To have the party inside a San Francisco neighbourhood with animals from a petting zoo loose inside the Hillard family living room...not so much.  Miranda was absolutely furious at Daniel, and they got into a terrible fight.  Unlike others that the Hillard children witnessed, this one would not have a kiss and make up kind of ending.

Miranda was tired of Daniel’s immaturity and lack of focus, and the birthday party was the final straw.  She put on a brave face for fourteen years, but enough was enough.  She wanted a divorce.  And when she said that, you could basically pinpoint the exact moment when Daniel’s heart split in two.

To make matters completely worse for Daniel, Miranda was granted primary custody of the three children.  Daniel was only allowed to see the children on Saturdays.  And for Daniel, who was deeply devoted to his children, one day out of seven just wasn’t enough.  But with the divorce ending in a bitter fashion, and Daniel having no job prospects lined up, it seemed hopeless.  The judge did tell Daniel that if he had a suitable home and a steady job within three months, the judge would revisit custody arrangements to include joint custody.

Eventually, Daniel lands a job as a shipping clerk at a local television station, and manages to find an apartment.  But when the children note that Daniel doesn’t seem to be trying incredibly hard to see them more than once a week, something inside of him snaps, and he gets more determination to see his children.

As it happens, he finds out that Miranda is looking for a housekeeper to look after the children.  Daniel pipes up that he could watch the children so Miranda doesn’t need to spend the money to hire someone else, but Miranda did not like that idea at all.  So Daniel decides to change the numbers in the ad on purpose so that he could use his voice talents to land the acting gig of a lifetime (and yes, the clip is's the only one I could find).

It also helped that his brother Frank (Fierstein) was a skilled make-up artist who could turn Daniel from a 40something man into a 60something British nanny named Euphegenia Doubtfire...the woman that Miranda hired on the spot to watch the children.

At first, Lydia, Chris, and Natalie are appalled by the addition of Mrs. Doubtfire into their lives.  Although none of them had any idea that Mrs. Doubtfire was really their beloved father, Mrs. Doubtfire was one strict bird.  She made them do their homework, she made them do their chores, she even made them eat nutritious food!  It was a far cry from the irresponsible behaviour that Miranda often accused Daniel of exhibiting.  Although, Mrs. Doubtfire wasn’t exactly Martha Stewart, and when it came time for her to prepare dinner for the family, she got more than a little burned.

It worked out well though.  For several weeks, Daniel had everybody fooled.  Certainly, there were a few missteps along the way (such as having his face mask fall out the window only to be run over by a truck), and Daniel certainly didn’t care too much for Miranda’s new boyfriend, Stuart (Brosnan).  But, he ended up cleaning up his act.  His apartment soon became more kid-friendly, his food became more gourmet quality, and he even ended up getting an interview with Jonathan Lundy, the CEO of the television studio he works at to discuss the possibility of hosting a children’s show after seeing him fooling around with dinosaur models. 

In a way, his becoming Mrs. Doubtfire helped Daniel achieve all that and more.  When Daniel took on the role of Mrs. Doubtfire, I have a hunch that he purposely made her strict so that it would make his children love him and respect him more.  But over time, through Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel taught himself how to become a better, more responsible parent.  Weirdly enough, as Mrs. Doubtfire, he actually found that he got along with Miranda a lot better, and it was through his conversations with her as Mrs. Doubtfire that he really began to understand where the marriage went wrong, and he started feeling remorseful as a result of it.  But I think it was good for him to hear because it made him realize that his war with Miranda wasn’t worth continuing if the people he loved the most got hurt.  Of course, it wasn’t so easy for Daniel as well.  As Mrs. Doubtfire, he was very convincing.  Perhaps even too convincing.  Because when Miranda saw how well Daniel had come along, Daniel had suggested that Miranda let Mrs. Doubtfire go.  But Miranda couldn’t imagine life without her, and Daniel was forced to keep up the charade even further.

Now, along the way, Daniel’s double life is discovered by Chris and Lydia in a most unconventional way (Chris walks in on Mrs. Doubtfire in the bathroom), and at first, both children are disgusted.  Eventually, both of them come around, and Lydia and Chris agree to keep Daniel’s secret from both Miranda and Natalie until he can figure out what to do next.

Of course, Daniel soon finds himself in an impossible situation.  Daniel is about to make the deal of a lifetime with Jonathan Lundy, and after a business dinner at Bridges Restaurant, it seemed as though Daniel would end up landing the biggest job of his whole career.  It’s just too bad that the meeting coincided with Miranda’s birthday.  And for her birthday, Stuart decided to take Miranda, the children, and Mrs. Doubtfire out to dinner.  At Bridges Restaurant.  On the same day at the same time!

I’m sure you can imagine Daniel’s brain exploding on impact.  Daniel had to keep his appointment with Jonathan.  It was the only chance he had to make his dream of being an actor come true.  But Miranda and Natalie insisted that Mrs. Doubtfire join them for dinner.  Daniel had no choice but to go to Bridges Restaurant and switch between himself and Mrs. Doubtfire to keep both dinner dates.  By the end of the night, nothing will ever be the same again.

Now, of course, I never reveal movie endings, so you’ll have to watch the movie yourself to see what happens.  But trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll admit it.  I really enjoyed this movie a lot.  It was silly and goofy at times, but it was also very heartwarming.  Certainly Daniel Hillard wasn’t your typical father.  But you know, given the amount of trouble that he went through in order to see his children whenever he wanted, you have to hand it to him...he had guts.  And, you know something?  I think Lydia, Chris, and Natalie Hillard were damned lucky to have a father who loved them so much that he would do something so drastic to spend time with them.

Now I’m not saying that I’ll put on a dress and a pair of heels once I become a father.  I mean, with size 12 feet, good luck finding a pair of heels to fit me.  But in all seriousness, I can only hope that if I ever become a father, I’ll love my own children with as much passion and joy as Daniel Hillard did with his.

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