We all have mothers. Many of us are mothers. And many mothers like to take their mothers to the movies, or be taken to the movies themselves.Mothers don’t want to see exploding cars. They don’t want to see orcs, or awkward (and especially orc-ward) sex.Sci-fi Forget it. Violence No thanks. Superheroes are super dull, and fantasy is also not really mothers’ cup of tea. Oh yes, and too much 3D or handheld camerawork makes mothers seasick.In other words, there’s a big shortage of Movies You Can Take Your Mother To (MYCTYMTs).
Most films are aimed at teenage boys. Certainly teenage boys like fast and furious cars, angsty Hobbits, sex, violence and superheroes – in 3D is they can get it.
The movies that aren’t designed for teenage boys are aimed at children under eight. (Memo to Hollywood moguls: contrary to what you think, mothers don’t only want to go to the cinema with their grandchildren.) Mothers are probably the most overlooked group of cinema-goers – even though women of a certain age make up a huge proportion of the population, generally have healthy disposable incomes and are looking for things to do.
And here’s another thing for the big studios to think about: as a group, mothers are not prone to illegal downloading. Mothers paid to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Something’s Gotta Give and Love Actually. And they’d pay to see more such films if the studios made them.
Movie-going mums are having quite a good time of it these holidays. It’s rare to see more than one MYCTYMT a month advertised, but lately we’ve had the feelgood One Chance and Philomena. The latter stars Judi Dench, the hallmark of an MYCTYMT. Both American Hustle and The Railway Man look as though they have mother potential. (You might think August: Osage County is an MYCTYMT because it’s a relationship drama starring Meryl Streep. However, she plays a drug-addled matriarch who has screwed up her kids, so it might be too depressing – or too much like real life – for some.)
Producers need to be more aware of the mother market. Films are great for girlie outings because most cinemas offer good access for the less mobile. Also, movies allow mothers and daughters to sit in communal silence (while the people on screen do the talking), and afterwards they can go off and discuss the movie over a spot of lunch.
So why are there so few MYCTYMTs It can’t be hard to knock up a feelgood script (a few tears, a few laughs and a happy ending) and assemble a cast of reliable and familiar faces. Now just add some pleasant music and scenery.
Producers need to be convinced of the economics. Mother-movies are cheap to make, because no budget is required for special effects, animation, CGI, prosthetic make-up, expensive cars going up in smoke, or bonuses for the actors to get their kit off.
The director just needs to get the right cast: Bill Nighy, Jack Nicholson, James Corden, Diane Keaton, Hugh Grant, Merryl Streep, Timothy Spall, Colin Firth, Michael Sheen and one of the dames (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren) all fit the bill.
No one has to be especially young, good-looking, thin or botoxed. In fact, it’s better if they’re middle-aged and look as though they’ve spent the past few decades working as public servants and hanging out the washing.
Now for the screenplay. Just call Richard (Four Weddings And a Funeral) Curtis, or take a leaf from his scripts. Transformation is a sure-fire winner. The public servant or washing-hanger, disappointed with life, can find happiness and fulfilment by taking up a vaguely eccentric pursuit such as tap-dancing, bucket-listing or bank-robbing. Alternatively, he or she is transformed after a child, animal or love enters their life in a less-than-conventional way.
It’s good if the plot makes clear that older folk – especially women – can be lovable and interesting. It’s especially good if there’s a scene in which a wise older person gets to put a foolish young person straight. The setting Anywhere in the England or New England countryside is good, but picturesque parts of Italy or India might even be preferable these days.
When the release date approaches, the movie should be advertised with a red-diamond “Mum” rating, because that’s surely just as informative and necessary as PG or M15+.
Let’s hope Hollywood gets the message. Believe me, MYCTYMT have a ready audience.