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Stepmom (1998, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon)

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This Tinseltown tearjerker with a top-drawer cast tells the story of Luke Harrison (ED HARRIS), a lawyer whose divorce has enabled him to find happiness with fashion photographer Isabel (JULIA ROBERTS). Luke’s children Anna and Ben (JENA MALONE and LIAM AIKEN) are dismissive of Isabel’s efforts to make friends, and help poison the mind of their mother Jackie (SUSAN SARANDON) in the hope that their parents will eventually reconcile.

When Isabel takes the children to a photo shoot and Ben gets lost, Jackie is furious and swears to get a court order to prevent it happening again. Her anger is muted after she hears more important news: she has cancer, and embarks on a secret course of chemotherapy. When Luke announces that he and Isabel are to marry, the kids begin to slowly accept their new stepmother, who proves to be an asset in helping raise the family as Jackie’s health worsens. With time running out, the women must make peace and plan for the future…

Prior to Harry Potter, Chris Columbus’ view of family life veered from the cynical Home Alone to the archly conservative Jingle All The Way. This German-American production sits between the earlier films, offering a complex framework that sees the two women attempting resolution because of circumstance rather than desire. Sarandon and Roberts make a convincing warring pair, marginalizing Harris and their efforts ultimately help soften the saccharine.

production details
US | 124 minutes | 1998

Director: Chris Columbus
Writers: Gigi Levangie, Jessie Nelson, Steven Rogers, Karen Leigh Hopkins, Ron Bass

cast
Julia Roberts as Isabel Kelly
Susan Sarandon as Jackie Harrison
Ed Harris as Luke Harrison
Jena Malone as Anna Harrison
Liam Aiken as Ben Harrison
Jason Maves as Brad Kovitsky
Naama Kates as Anna’s Friend
Andre B. Blake as Cooper
Mary Louise Wilson as Mrs. Franklin
Mak Gilchrist as Rapunzel