Cinema Review: Helicopter Mom | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, August 11th, 2022  

Helicopter Mom

Studio: Entertainment One
Directed by Salomé Breziner

Apr 24, 2015 Web Exclusive
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The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, and Lloyd’s mother, Maggie, has the very, very best intentions for her son. She wants the best for him, as most mothers want. And she expresses that by suffocating her child, from posting flyers of her son’s face for her birthday to pimping her son out to win a scholarship for LGBT students.

“Helicopter parent” wasn’t a term I had heard of prior to this film, but according to Wikipedia, it means “a parent who keeps an extremely close eye on their child.” The film’s version of that is a mother who is manipulative, prone to sabotage, and generally repugnant.

In an act of such subtle foreshadowing, Maggie throws out to her son that she’d be “totally okay with him being gay.” And, unsurprisingly, Maggie’s concept of what being gay is like is built around boring stereotypes. Opera, handbags, etc. Her desire for him to be gay is rooted in abandonment issues, as she tells a friend that if Lloyd were gay, “he’d be the only man in my life who didn’t leave me for another woman”. Cute intentions, but ultimately selfish and wrongheaded. It’s split between the issue of financial aid, but a projection of wishful thinking for Maggie to still be connected to her son.

Nia Vardalos seems enthusiastic, but there’s little to like or identify with (think a more insane version of Andy’s mom in Toy Story 3). Her obliviousness towards her own actions and her son’s reactions don’t play as funny, even in a kind of awkward humor that The Office and Arrested Development excelled at. It’s only embarrassing, without wit and without sympathy. Her desperate attempts to hold onto her son and simultaneously attract someone for herself are kind of gross, repellent, and reek of a latent misogyny. It’s not cute that she has to interfere with her son’s personal life, and it’s not cute that this seems to imply that Maggie is devoid of agency entirely without having her son to use as a puppet.

Bad ideas are sometimes saved by good scripts, but this is, unfortunately, not one of those times. It drones on and on with failed jokes and unfortunate, supposedly comic scenarios. It’s particularly unsettling because there are certainly ways to mine compelling material from mother/son relationships. From Hitchcock’s Psycho to Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother and Mommy, the tempestuous dynamics in these films are captivating and moving. Sure, Helicopter Mom may be working in a different plane, but to think that one shouldn’t be able to craft a good, or even serviceable film, is myopic.

Its queer subject matter is another thing: Helicopter Mom ostensibly is supposed to work as a satire of close-minded people and the culture shock they experience when meeting a queer person for the first time. But, first of all, this is set in Venice Beach and queerness isn’t so terribly new that the school wouldn’t have other queer people is implausible to me. But, second of all, this presentation of “look at how closed-minded these folks are” doesn’t actually work as satire because nothing is being subverted and little is actually being commented upon. Serving up stereotypes and expecting the audience to get the context of satire or parody is lazy and not actually satire. When Maggie sets Lloyd up on a blind date with a boy, said date is hyper effeminate. It’s played for laughs, and yet there’s a sense that the film believes “this is what a gay person acts, looks, and sounds like.” With such an onslaught of misunderstanding of what being queer means and what the gay lifestyle is, the film flounders and just falls into stupid territory.

The brief gleam of light of an understanding of fluidity comes in scenes between Lloyd and his father Max (Mark Boone Junior). Here, there’s a sensitivity and understanding which suggests that maybe the film knows what it’s doing, or trying to do. Unfortunately, the rest of the film, rife with lame and, by now, too well-worn stereotypes, undercuts these moments.

The film is never brave enough to broach the topic of what a queer identity means, it’s not brave enough to really examine attraction or fluidity, and it doesn’t take the leap to discuss the double-edged sword of labels. Even movies like GBF and Gayby attempt to deconstruct the environment and situations that are built around them. Jason Dolley is perfectly likable as Lloyd, but the film surrounding him is as cowardly as the mother unwilling to let her son live his own life.

Author rating: 2/10

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