Search form

Scroll To Top
Armond White

Psycho Moms

Psycho Moms

Helicopter Mom
Entertainment One

Blackbird and Helicopter Mom pay tribute to our first girl

"A boy's best friend is his mother" said Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho, the greatest probably-gay performance in Hollywood history. Touching on the primal relationship that figures in gay male self-esteem, Bates queered it for all time so that his famous ironic phrase even shadows this week's new films: Patrik-Ian Polk's Blackbird and Salome Breziner's Helicopter Mom.

Each movie is about a teenage boy coming to grips with his sexuality: In Blackbird, Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker) is a black church choirboy but ashamed of his nocturnal emissions. In Helicopter Mom, Lloyd Cooper (Jason Dolley) is a shy, white poet unsure about who to take to his high school prom. Both boys' mothers dominate the films and each one differently:

Claire Rousseau (Mo'Nique) is a disciplinarian, obsessed with a missing daughter and church-going; her homophobia can be mistaken for her own gospel force. Maggie Cooper (Nia Vardalos) is a single-mom with youthful rainbow streaks in her hair, more friend than parent, and by insisting her son be fashionably gay, she's more post-hippie ideologue than role model.

It's helpful having to deal with these contrasting matriarchs since neither film is very good (each one verges on the risible and tragic: Polk makes you pine for James Baldwin, Breziner creates longing for William Inge). But both films are interesting enough about the complications of cutting the apron-strings and -- even more complexly -- understanding one's own sexual needs and moral perimeters and eventually coming to terms with the very flawed humanity of loving but imperfect parents.

Blackbird, based on Larry Duplechan's 1986 novel, comes closest to the gay male's nightmare since the mom's specter threatens the happiness Randy finds with Kevin (Marshall McNeil), a white boy thus a double transgression against Randy's fundamentalist blackness. Helicopter Mom presents a new dread: a mother so approving, so modish, and so juvenile that her own needs blot out her child's.

These films should ideally be seen in a double-bill, creating a rapprochement between a gay child's need for independence and the older generation's authoritarian expectations.

Ironically, the fathers are the heroes. Lloyd's Dad, Max (Mark Boone Junior), is a burly, bearded Papa bear whose permissiveness is as comically nonchalant as Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion. Randy's father Lance (Isaiah Washington) accepts his son's nature with the same authenticity as in the black Hollywood classics The Learning Tree and Sounder. Lance advises his son, "God made no mistakes making you. Never disrespect God by being ashamed of his work. Ain't no preacher, your mom, or me can say what it is to be a man. That's between you and God." Patrik-Ian Polk, collaborating with the legendary Rikki Beadle-Blair, dips into profound black spiritual crisis.

RLJ Entertainment

It's Mom who is the problem with both movies. Likable Vardalos entered the gay-friendly pantheon for films like Connie and Carla and especially I Hate Valentine's Day where she owned the mythic line, "He's my boyfriend." But here, she's a likable head-case. (Lloyd confesses: "My mother's very polarizing, or maybe that's a way of saying she's bipolar.") Only the charming Australian director P.J. Hogan could appropriately handle Maggie's issues, as he did with Toni Collette in last year's underrated Mental.

In Blackbird, Mo'Nique's tyrannical mom figure is too much like the harridan that won her an Oscar in Precious. Claire's anger and insanity capsize the movie. Wasn't this the moment when Mo'Nique should defy stereotype and play loving-kindness? Her actress instincts trick her into monstrosity once again. Playing a boy's best fiend, Mo'Nique lets us know too well what drove Norman Bates crazy.

Watch a clip from Helicopter Mom below:

Advocate Channel - HuluOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Armond White