'night, Mother (1986)


(director: Tom Moore; screenwriters: from the play by Marsha Norman/Marsha Norman; cinematographer: Stephem M. Katz; editor: Suzanne Pettit; music: David Shire; cast: Sissy Spacek (Jessie Cates), Anne Bancroft (Thelma Cates), Ed Berke (Dawson Cates), Carol Robbins (Loretta Cates), Jennifer Rosendahl (Melodie Cates); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Aaron Spelling /Alan Greisman; Universal Pictures; 1986)

A sobering overwrought drama based on Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sobering overwrought drama based on Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, that’s adapted to the screen by Ms. Norman. Tom Moore (“Maybe Baby”/”The Flight Fantastic“/”The Harvesters“) helms the two character-driven film as faithful to the play. If good performances matter, you are in for a treat–the co-stars take good bites into their flawed characters in a gab fest. But be warned, the realistic drama can bring you down with its annoying camera angles and its claustrophobic settings. It’s a depressing watch and not everyone’s idea of cinema entertainment. It was a big mistake choosing Moore, who directed it on Broadway, to film it. It was also a mistake in choosing a screenwriter connected with the play to also write the script. It seems more like a theater experience than a cinema one. In my way of thinking, that’s not a good thing.

It’s set at a Dixie farm.

Sissy Spacek is the despondent, unemployed, middle-aged, epileptic, stressed-out mother of an incorrigibly criminal estranged, addicted son, who tells her long-suffering dependent mom (Anne Bancroft) she’s going to kill herself that night with her deceased dad’s gun. Mom and daughter live alone together, and are always confrontational.

The talky drama unfolds as mom and daughter try to resolve their lifetime of hopeless differences, as mom talks up a storm trying to avert a suicide. If you have the will to get into such a harrowing tale, it can hold your attention and at times might even be eerily gripping.