Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary today. The two met on the set of All My Children back in 1995. Kelly played the popular heroine Hayley Vaughn and Mark was brought on as her love interest, Mateo Santos. I remember thinking at the time that they had incredible chemistry. Apparently, that carried over into their real lives since they eloped in Las Vegas the next year. Hayley and Mateo experienced a ton of drama, but Kelly and Mark have remained fairly steady. After they left AMC in 2002, they continued on to successful careers and raised a family. They also have a producing partnership. Currently, they’re in development on a primetime reboot of AMC, taking it back to where their love story began.
Fear walked so hundreds of Lifetime movies could run. You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing films like My Psycho Ex-Boyfriend or Deadly Boyfriend. Different titles with the same premise of a young woman meeting a “good” guy who turns out to be criminally insane. There weren’t a lot of young adult thrillers like that up until the release of Fear in 1996. You had horror and dramas, but not any Fatal Attraction-type films for the high school crowd. There was The Crush in 1993, starring Alicia Silverstone as a teenage girl who becomes dangerously obsessed with an older man, but that was told from the man’s point of view. Fear‘s focus is primarily on the teens, which makes it much more interesting.
Girl meets boy
Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is a 16-year-old who lives in Seattle (we know this because they show the Space Needle a thousand times) with her father Steven (William Petersen), her stepmother Laura (Amy Brenneman), and her little stepbrother Toby (Christopher Gray). There’s friction at home because Nicole is growing up and her dad can’t handle it. When she stays out past curfew to go to a rave with her best friend Margo (Alyssa Milano), she meets David (Mark Wahlberg). He seems great on paper: good looking, polite, and chivalrous. So, Nicole falls for him pretty quickly. The sexy part of the thriller kicks into gear here. It’s like David brings Nicole out of her shell and causes her, and the director, to lean into her sexuality. There are plenty of closeups of her breasts in lowcut dresses, intense make out sessions, and a fingerbanging scene on a roller coaster (set perfectly to The Sundays’ version of “Wild Horses”). David’s perfect boyfriend veneer soon begins to crack, though, and he proves to be fairly disturbed. Like when he kicks the crap out of Nicole’s friend Gary (Todd Caldecott) for giving her a friendly hug. Or when he purposely injures himself and blames Steven. David continually manipulates Nicole until she finally gets a clue. She dumps him, but he won’t let her go. He even makes a homemade tattoo on his chest proclaiming: NICOLE 4 EVA. It’s fairly ridiculous, but I guess it was supposed to be cool and scary back then.
The overprotective dad
The contentious relationship between Steven & David makes up a large portion of the story too. Steven isn’t fooled by his overly polite façade. Good eye. But even if David wasn’t a bad guy, Steven still would have hated him. He’s extremely protective of Nicole and wants to keep her his little girl. Sweet on one hand, creepy on the other. Throughout the movie he worries about her dresses being too short or that David is too handsy with her. It all comes down to his fear of her losing her virginity. When he discovers that Nicole and David had sex, he freaks out. It’s almost like he’s jealous. For his part, David does anything he can to antagonize Steven. He stares him down, daring him to stop him from screwing his daughter. He even flirts with Laura, so he can really be a dick. Both men want to possess Nicole in their own way and be the alpha male figure in her life. Her narrative almost gets lost as she’s bounced back and forth between these two men.
The best friend
In a thriller, the best girlfriend is the talk-to who helps keep the heroine’s story going. Margo fits the bill here. She’s supportive of Nicole and offers an ear for all of her problems. She even risks her life to save Nicole from being attacked. It’s a wonder she isn’t killed since that’s usually the fate of this character type. Although, I suppose poor Gary, Nicole’s other good friend, being beaten to death by David kinda counts. On the flip side, Nicole is a shitty friend. She sees David forcibly take Margo away to have sex with her, but she’s actually angry with Margo. As if her best friend wanted to sleep with her boyfriend and wasn’t raped. It’s a horrible way to treat someone who has already been traumatized. #JusticeforMargo
The last act is where all the dramatic violent chaos happens. David and his cracked-out friends (how did I miss that he was a crack dealer when I first saw this in 1996?) try to break into Nicole’s house, while Steven and Laura fight them off. The family dog and a security guard are killed, Toby runs over someone, and Nicole is nearly sexually assaulted. In the final moments, Steven saves Nicole by tossing David out of a window. That splat is very satisfying. The ultimate lesson here is if a guy seems too good to be true, he probably is. Even if he’s a hot 90s era Marky Mark.
Shannen Doherty is one of my favorite actresses who has played two of my favorite characters in my all-time favorite movie and TV show. That’s a lot of love there. But it’s well earned. She’s a great actress who can do both drama and comedy effortlessly. She illustrated this in the 80s cult classic Heathers, playing the envious Heather Duke. And, again, when she took on the role of Brenda Walsh in the synonymous-with-the-90s series Beverly Hills 90210. She made each character memorable and fun to watch. Since then she’s had a steady career with acting, producing, and directing. Of course, I was happy to see her come full circle by playing a heightened version of herself in the BH90210 reboot two years ago. Outside of entertainment, Shannen continues to inspire as she wages a battle against breast cancer. She’s a survivor and icon. Happy 50th Birthday, Shannen!
In the years since she died, it seems like Latasha Harlins has been largely forgotten. When she is actually mentioned, in the media, the focus is on how she died. The documentary short, A Love Song for Latasha, chooses to look at her life as a whole and not just the horrible circumstances surrounding her death.
Latasha was a young black girl growing up in South Central LA. Early on she faced hardship when her mother was murdered, but she kept going. She took care of her younger siblings and looked out for her friends. She was also a good student who dreamed of being a lawyer and a business owner. She wanted to give back to her community and help other children. But at 15 years old, she was murdered by a convenience store owner who wrongfully accused her of stealing and shot her. All for a $1.79 bottle of orange juice.
The documentary tells us about Latasha through her loved ones. Her cousin and best friend talk about how special she was and speculate about who she could have grown up to become. We also hear Latasha’s own words in a heartfelt essay. Director Sophia Nahli Allison intertwines this with beautiful images of black girls. They all could have been Latasha. They’re shown as proud queens, the way they should be depicted in the media. Allison uses this imagery instead of showing the widespread video footage of Latasha’s murder. It makes the film much more impactful. She gives life and light to Latasha’s story, making sure that she will always be remembered.
A love song that doesn’t care about “I love you”? It’s not such a crazy concept actually. Extreme’s “More Than Words” is an ode to a show me, don’t tell me kind of love. It’s easy to give someone a verbal confirmation, but to prove how deeply you feel with your actions is more powerful. “More than words/Is all you have to do to make it real/Then you wouldn’t have to say/That you love me/Cause I’d already know.”
Those lyrics matched with a smooth acoustic guitar came together to form a beautiful song. It also marked a departure for Extreme. Up until then they were known as a hard rock group, but going the ballad route really put them on the map. The single went to #1 in the US and several other countries in 1991. At that time, I remember it being played at every middle school dance. I didn’t care much about slow dancing, but I loved hearing that song. Still do.
Soleil Moon Frye carried her video camera everywhere she went when she was a teenager in the 90s. From wild parties to mundane trips to the mall. Then she locked those videotapes away and never looked back. Twenty-something years later, she has opened her vault of recorded memories and made the documentary kid90.
Frye rose to fame as a child on the 80s sitcom Punky Brewster. Everyone loved the character and the precocious little girl who played her. When the show ended, she continued to work in the business while having a semi-normal teen life. By this time, she had befriended other young actors like Brian Austin Green, Stephen Dorff, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. They grew up together in LA and she was there to film it all.
In kid90, Frye looks back at this footage and checks in with her younger self. She questions whether or not what she remembers happening actually occurred. She finds that she did have a pretty happy childhood. Her family was loving and caring. Plus, she had a supportive group of friends. There were dark times though. Frye’s breasts developed very early, leading to unwanted attention and harassment from older men. In the documentary, we see her going in for breast reduction surgery. She also had to contend with sexual assault. These events shaped her physically and emotionally.
The film also gets into life as a child star. Frye’s post-Punky career didn’t take off in the way she would have hoped, but she accepted this and moved past it. Unfortunately, many of her friends weren’t able to survive similar challenges. Actor Jonathan Brandis, who also became famous at a young age, is featured in the film. He seems happy and Frye only has fond memories of him. This is where perceptions of the past can differ from what was actually going on. Frye wasn’t seeing the whole picture. After his career failed, Brandis killed himself. Frye wonders how she could have missed the pain her friend was going through. Not everything showed up on camera it seems.
In the 90s, social media didn’t exist and people weren’t self-documenting like they do today. Frye was ahead of the curve. She knew she had a story to share someday. Also, without the threat of having their personal business put online, she was able to capture her friends unguarded. As a fellow 90s kid, it’s interesting to see these actors that I followed in a more private real setting. Frye does a great job of assembling it all and taking the audience down a fun and sometimes complex nostalgia trip.
The legendary Cicely Tyson has passed away. She leaves behind a prolific award-winning career in film, TV, and the stage. She was a trailblazer who opened the door for other black actresses that followed. Moreover, she used her work to show how multidimensional black women are and their deserving of respect. I’ll remember her most for the dignity and poise she possessed. Like a regal queen. She always seemed sure of herself and what she wanted from the world. Recently, Miss Tyson completed her memoir, Just As I Am. I’m looking forward to reading it and learning more about this incredible woman.
Thirty years ago, my all-time favorite show, Beverly Hills 90210, premiered. This was the OG teen drama that opened the door for all the rest. It had soapy storylines, very pretty people, and a mythic zip code that everyone wanted to live in. The fish out of water premise focused on the Walsh family moving from their comfy normal Minneapolis home to the glitzy Beverly Hills. There was stern patriarch Jim (James Eckhouse), his loveable wife Cindy (Carol Potter), and their dynamic twins Brandon (Jason Priestly) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty). B&B enrolled in West Beverly Hills High School and met brooding bad boy Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), queen bee Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth), clotheshorse Donna Martin (Tori Spelling), spoiled rich boy Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering), brainiac Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris), and dorky David Silver (Brian Austin Green). Immediately, I was drawn in and made Thursday nights at 9pm (and then Wednesdays at 8pm) appointment viewing. My walls were decorated with posters of the cast. I even had the dolls. Really wish I had held onto those. 90210 was my adolescence. I was 11 when the show began in 1990 and months way from turning 21 when it went off the air in 2000. It will always have a special place in my heart, so for its anniversary I thought I’d celebrate the best things about the show. And some of the worst.
Best Character – Brenda
You can’t get any better than Brenda. Beautiful, smart, and headstrong. Plus, she usually had the most compelling storylines. You wanted to watch every week as she navigated the rough terrain of Beverly Hills. Shannen’s performances were always on point, making her the best actor in the cast. When she left at the end of season 4, I stopped watching…for a few episodes. I may have come back, but the show was never quite the same without Brenda.
Most Boring Character – Andrea
Andrea wasn’t necessarily setting the screen on fire. Her trajectory was running the school newspaper while crushing on Brandon, getting knocked up and married her freshman year of college, and studying to be a doctor. Blah. Yeah, she cheated on her husband, but it was a tedious affair. Really, the most interesting thing to happen to her was getting run down by a car in season 3.
Best Couple – Brenda & Dylan
Brenda and Dylan were an intense couple. They loved hard, leading to several fights and breakups. But no matter what, they were always there for each other. Also, Shannen and Luke had amazing chemistry.
Worst Couple – Donna & Ray
Ray was an abusive cheating douchebag who threw Donna down a flight of stairs. Luckily, she gained the courage to end things with him before it was too late. On a positive note, he did write a catchy song, “How Do You Talk to an Angel”.
Best Rivalry – Brenda vs. Kelly
Brenda and Kelly started off as best friends before quickly becoming frenemies. The minute Brenda turned her back, Kelly was scamming on Dylan, leading to the final B&D breakup. Even though Brenda got over it, I couldn’t forgive Kelly. #NeverForget
Best Parent – Cindy Walsh
Cindy was always there to listen to her kids’ problems and offer good advice. It’s funny how Carol Potter quit acting to become a family therapist. Life kind of imitated art.
Worst Parent – Felice Martin
Donna’s mom (Katherine Cannon) never failed to be the worst. She was the typical Beverly Hills snob, looking down on everyone around her. Turns out she was a big hypocrite, preaching about abstinence while cheating on her husband.
Best Villain – Amanda
Amanda made a brief indelible villainous mark on the show in the “Slumber Party” episode. From the get go she thinks Brenda’s pajama party is beneath her and isn’t afraid to tell them all. Then she suggests they play “Skeletons in the Closet” where each girl has to confess secrets about themselves. This ends in tears and humiliation. Later, it’s revealed that Amanda has been taking diet pills that are killing her personality. She finally lets her guard down and eats something. Bitchiness cured.
Best Kelly Tragedy – Cocaine Kelly
Drama stuck to Kelly like white on rice. Speaking of white stuff, Kelly getting hooked on cocaine was her best tragic moment. She spiraled downward into the bottom of a coke vial, enabled by Colin (Jason Wiles), her boyfriend at the time. After hitting rock bottom, she checked into rehab. That led to her meeting fellow addict, Tara (Paige Moss), a complete psycho who went single white female on her. Never bring home friends from rehab.
Dumbest Tragedy to Befall Kelly – LAX Drive-by Shooting
The gang was coming back from a trip to Hawaii when they found themselves gunned down by a pair of car thieves in the parking lot. Kelly took a bullet and immediately went into a coma. Then she woke up with amnesia. Seriously.
Best Exit – Dylan takes off
Dylan’s arc for season 6 involved trying to find the man responsible for his father’s death. That turned out to be mobster Anthony Marchette. In a soapy twist, Dylan fell in love with Marchette’s daughter, Toni. They got married and planned to leave Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, Marchette put a hit on Dylan, but the assassin accidentally killed Toni. A grief-stricken Dylan left town, riding off into the sunset on his motorcycle.
Most Annoying Character – Clare
Clare (Kathleen Robertson) came in during season four as Brandon’s stalker, basically. When she got over him, she moved onto David and then Steve. None of the pairings were great, but Claire was consistently annoying. Judgy and always ready to blame someone else for her problems. It didn’t help that she had a bad case of resting bitch face.
Best New Character – Valerie Malone
After Brenda left BH, Valerie Malone (Tiffani Thiessen), a Walsh family friend, was added to the canvas. She was no Minnesota twin, but she did a fine job. In Valerie, the show finally got a straight up bitch (with a heart). She was sneaky, deceitful, and full of snark. Her main target was Kelly, so I took to Val pretty quickly.
Worst New Character – Gina
After Tiffani left the show in season 9, producers rushed to replace her with Vanessa Marcil, a popular daytime soap star. She played Gina, Donna’s cousin (but actually her half-sister, long story). Unlike, Val, Gina was one-dimensional and lacked chemistry with any member of the gang.
Funniest Character – Steve
Steve provided a lot of comic relief. Intentional or not. Those loud silk shirts he wore in the early seasons were quite laughable. Not to mention his curly mullet.
Biggest Waste of Talent – Hilary Swank
In year 8, Hilary Swank was cast as Steve’s girlfriend Carly. She was fired mid-season. The rest is two-time Academy Award winning history.
Best & Worst Fashion – Donna
Over the course of a decade, Donna followed every 90s fashion trend. She wore clothes well, like the red & black sweater and short-shorts set she had on when she found out her mom was a big cheater. Or her low cut, yet tasteful (thanks to a cross) sparkly black prom dress. Sometimes the clothes wore her and showcased her insane boobs too much. But she always made an effort, however misguided.
Sexiest Man – Dylan
The late Luke Perry was as hot as he was talented. You can’t resist a bad boy with a lot of forehead.
Best Track from the Soundtrack – “Love Is”
The show came out with a soundtrack in 1992 filled with a bunch of great songs. Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight duetted on the beautiful ballad “Love Is”. It’s the track I like to play over and over again…and usually sing the Vanessa parts.
Best Musical Guest Stars – Color Me Badd
In “Things to Do on a Rainy Day”, Brenda, Kelly, Donna, and David run around the Bel Age Hotel trying to meet Color Me Badd, who are staying there. Hijinks ensue. At the end of the episode, the Badd guys serenade Donna with “I Adore”. It’s delightfully cheesy.
Best Musical Performance
In the “Wild Fire” episode, new girl Emily Valentine (Christine Elsie) sings “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” at the Hello Day talent show. Brenda, Kelly, and Donna assist with some mean lip synching and Robert Palmer backup dancer realness.
Dumbest Line – “I choose me”
Faced with a marriage proposal from Brandon and a trip around the world with Dylan, Kelly went with “I choose me”. Wrong choice, girl.
Most Character Growth – David
David started out as a skinny little geek in season 1 who was obsessed with girls and being popular. He grew up quickly (emotionally and physically) and became more secure with himself. Plus, he won over Donna and joined the group. There were dramatic lows, like his drug addiction and mental illness issues, but he overcame them. By the end of the show, David proved to be a good friend, brother, and partner.
Heart of the Show – Nat
Nat (Joe E. Tata), the owner of the Peach Pit, was like a second father to everyone in the group. He provided a shoulder to lean on and a delicious burger to eat.
Best Trip – Paris
In the summer episodes of season 3, Brenda and Donna traveled to Paris for a study abroad program. Brenda pretended to be French (complete with a bad accent) while being romanced by cute American tourist Rick (Dean Cain). Meanwhile, Donna tried her hand at modeling. That didn’t go far. The trip overall was a fun retreat from the usual Beverly Hills stories, plus the girls grew closer as friends.
Best Event – Spring Dance
At the end of season 1, the gang gathered together for West Beverly’s spring dance. Brenda and Kelly wore the same little black and white dress. Brenda did it better. Donna wore a ridiculous dress with a hoop skirt no less. Steve was a jerk because everyone forgot his birthday. Andrea nearly missed the whole thing. And Brenda and Dylan made love for the first time. It was a night to remember. Btw, the senior prom in season 3 is a very close second. Donna getting drunk and nearly getting tossed out of school will never get old. #DonnaMartinGraduates
Worst Event – Brandon & Kelly’s almost wedding
Viewers were prepared for longtime couple, Brandon and Kelly, to get married in the season 8 finale. They’d been through so many dramas and this was the natural next step. Instead, they both got cold feet and called it off. Wtf?? Not cool, show.
Best Season – Season 2
Fox was thinking out of the box when they started airing the second season in the summer. Kids at home had nothing else to watch and quickly latched onto the fledging show, making it a hit. Brenda and Dylan’s drama took center stage. She had a pregnancy scare and they broke up (in Dylan’s vintage Porsche while R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” played). Meanwhile, Brandon diched his job at the Peach Pit for a run as a cabana boy at the Beverly Hills Beach Club. To remind you, Beverly Hills is landlocked. How did we not question this alleged beach? When school started, we met wild girl Emily, who introduced us to U4EA. Scott (Douglas Emerson), David’s former best friend, accidentally killed himself. Everybody was talking about sex. David’s dad Mel (Matthew Laurence) and Kelly’s mom Jackie (Ann Gillespie) got together. Jim and Dylan waged WWIII with Brenda stuck in the middle. And Kelly had a brief romance with older man Jake Hanson (Grant Show). A handyman who lived over on Melrose Place.
Worst Season – Seasons 9 & 10
One thing is clear, 90210 stayed too late at the party. The show could have ended with the gang graduating from college in season 7. Or with Brandon and Kelly’s wedding in season 8 (if they hadn’t called it off). But instead they dragged it out for 9 and 10. Brandon left town, leaving no Walshes in Casa Walsh. There was too much focus on newer characters like Gina, Noah (Vincent Young) and Matt (Daniel Cosgrove). Eternal playboy Steve suddenly married his girlfriend Janet (Lindsay Price) and had a kid. Donna developed a pill addiction. Kelly was raped. Yes, Dylan came back, but he was on yet another booze spiral. Nothing was really clicking in those last two years. The show lost its spark.
Best Moment from the Series Finale – Donna & David’s Wedding
As mentioned above, by the time we got to season 10 it was REALLY time to end things. But it was still a sad moment. I was going to miss this show that I grew up with. In the final moments, soulmates David and Donna got married. Their friends and family gathered on the dance floor to dance to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”. It was a bittersweet moment.
In 1995, Mariah Carey released Daydream, one of the best albums of her career. It’s certainly in my top 3 for her. The record is a fantastic mix of pop, ballads, and midtempo r&b. She also creeped into the hip-hop world with a certain remix. Critics praised her new work and fans rushed to buy it. The album went platinum ten times over and spawned three #1 singles. Let’s take a look back.
12. When I Saw You
A simple ballad. But basic for Mariah is still infinitely better than most singers at their best.
11. Open Arms
Standard cover of Journey’s classic song. My arms are halfway open for it.
A throwback to a 50s or 60s sound, but with Mariah’s signature tone. I could almost hear this playing in the background of an old Sandra Dee movie.
9. Daydream Interlude (Sweet Fantasy Dub Mix)
She takes us to the club with this hypnotic interlude, giving us a brief moment to dance it out.
8. Long Ago
Midtempo 90s r&b in a nutshell. She flows easily over this bass line.
7. Melt Away
The ballad sister of Long Ago. She wrote it with Babyface, producing a smooth jam
6. One Sweet Day
The longest running consecutive #1 (16 weeks) up until 2019. Mariah partnered with Boys II Men on this track about losing a loved one. It’s equally sad and beautiful. My favorite part is the run-filled back and forth between Mariah and Wanya.
5. I Am Free
With a title like “I Am Free” you wouldn’t think this was a love song. Mariah writes about being a prisoner locked inside herself until someone came into her life and freed her with their love. It’s a hopeful message captured with soaring high notes.
4. Underneath the Stars
A pretty melody matched with some of the best layered vocals. It makes you imagine first-time love on a starry summer night.
3. Looking In
One of her most introspective songs where she lays out all of her raw emotions. “She smiles through a thousand tears and harbors adolescent fears. She dreams of all that she could never be She wades in insecurity.” It’s quietly powerful and heartbreaking.
2. Always Be My Baby
A fan favorite that never gets old. ABMB marked the beginning of a long history of collaborations between Mariah and producer Jermaine Dupri. They know how to make the hits that become the soundtrack to our lives.
The first track off the album, as well as the first single by a female artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 100. Her ninth #1 overall. She’s backed by an infectious sample of the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love”. Then she flipped it with the remix featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard. At the time, putting a mainstream pop singer with a rapper seemed crazy. But Mariah grew up loving hip hop. These days every female pop star does a song featuring a rap artist. I’m not saying Mariah invented this “hip-pop” genre. But I’m not not saying it either. In any case, Fantasy gave us the iconic lyric “Me and Mariah go back like babies with pacifiers”. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
The other day I re-watched Single White Female & The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and realized they share many similarities. Both films came out in 1992 when sexy thrillers were very much in style (think Basic Instinct). So, you have a lot of the same themes and character traits reused between movies. Some hold up and others feel stuck in the 90s.
Single White Female focuses on Allie (Bridget Fonda), a pretty twenty-something software engineer living in New York City. When she discovers that her boyfriend, Sam (Steven Weber), has cheated on her, she tosses him out. Soon after she puts an ad in the newspaper looking for a new roommate. After meeting with a few duds, Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) strolls in. Allie has been crying over Sam and she listens as she blabbers on. They instantly bond and Hedy moves-in. Allie is so taken with her new roomie that she doesn’t bother to check her references. Big mistake. It’s one of several dumb moves Allie makes. The script makes her out to be fairly dense and co-dependent. She actually doesn’t need a roommate because she can afford the rent-controlled apartment on her own, but she can’t bear to be alone. Once Hedy has moved in, she can’t see how crazy she is until it’s too late and she’s duct-taped to a chair. That will open your eyes.
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle has a different vibe, but a familiar story. Claire (Anabella Sciorra) is a wife and mother living in the suburbs of Seattle. During her second pregnancy, she is molested by her OBGYN, Dr. Mott. She tells the authorities, which causes other victims to come forward. The scandal devastates Mott and he commits suicide. His wife Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay) goes into premature labor because of all the stress and loses the baby. Months later when Claire needs help taking care of her daughter Emma (Madeline Zima) and baby Joe, Peyton arrives on the scene posing as a nanny. The doctor’s widow is set on revenge. Just like Allie, Claire is fairly gullible. She allows Peyton’s charm to win her over and doesn’t take the time to look into her references. How are these women allowing strangers to move into their homes without doing a simple background check first?! Also, Claire is extremely weak. There’s a recurring plot line where any stressor triggers her asthma and she has a massive attack. She could drop dead if someone says “boo” to her.
The villains in each movie are riding in first class on the crazy train. From the second she moves in, Hedy is obsessed with Allie. She wants to be the #1 person in her roommate’s life. She even buys a puppy so the two of them can take care of it. Poor Buddy gets tossed off the balcony when he seems to prefer Allie over Hedy. Only a true nutjob would kill a puppy! Later Allie discovers that Hedy has copies of all of her outfits. Then she takes it one step further when she gets Allie’s exact haircut and color. Ironically, this movie probably spawned a ton of mushroom copy-cuts in real life.
In Peyton’s mind, Claire destroyed her family, so she’s going to steal hers. She gets close to Emma, winning her over quickly. Then she begins to breastfeed Joe every night causing him to reject his own mother’s milk. She attempts to ruin Claire’s marriage by making her think that her husband is cheating on her. Peyton won’t rest until her enemy is down for good.
The men in these movies are basically props used to move the plot along. It’s actually refreshing since this typically happens to female characters. In both films, the villain wants to steal the heroine’s man. But it’s not really about the guys themselves. It’s more so about possessing everything the heroine has. In SWF, Hedy tries to dissuade Allie from forgiving Sam and getting back together with him. She doesn’t want to lose her position in Allie’s life. But she also wants to bang Sam herself. She succeeds in the latter point when she slithers into Sam’s bed. He thinks she’s Allie and goes along with the seduction. Once he realizes the truth, he doesn’t try too hard to push her off. But he instantly regrets cheating on Allie and hops out of bed. In this moment, we get some rare male nudity. There’s a flash of peen and a slightly longer butt shot with a peek at his low hangers. Both Fonda and Leigh have nude scenes, so it’s only fair that we get a gander at Webber too. Sam threatens to tell Allie about what happened and Hedy snaps (didn’t take much) and stabs him in the eye with her stiletto heel. Death by footwear.
Claire’s husband, Michael (Matt McCoy) fares better. He doesn’t succumb to Peyton’s “charms”, even after she flaunts them in a wet see-through nightgown. And he makes it out of the movie alive despite getting clocked with a baseball bat. But ultimately his character is a bland afterthought. If he had gotten naked, maybe he’d be more interesting.
The best friend always knows
Unlike the female leads, the best friends actually have a clue. Marlene (Julianne Moore) knows something isn’t right with Peyton. She warns Claire, “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”. It’s like she wrote the movie. Marlene investigates the nanny and discovers that Peyton is Dr. Mott’s widow. This leads to a typical trope in thrillers: the best friend has to die because they know too much. In this case, Marlene gets a greenhouse dropped on her head. Meanwhile, Allie’s best friend and neighbor Graham (Peter Friedman) has Hedy’s number from the moment she moves into the building. Hedy comes after Graham, knocking him out. Luckily, he survives and will be able to give Allie a big “I told you so”.
One aspect of THTRTC that doesn’t age well and also proves to be very problematic is the character of Solomon (Ernie Hudson). Claire and Michael hire the mentally challenged handyman to build a white picket fence around their yard. He’s a large black man with the mental capability of a child. So, he’s imposing, yet harmless, and altogether awkward. He’s bright enough to be wary of Peyton though. When he catches her breastfeeding Joe, she plots to get rid of him before he can out her. She tells Claire that Solomon has been inappropriate with Emma. Claire doesn’t believe it, but the seed of doubt is planted. Later, Peyton makes sure she finds a pair of Emma’s underwear in Solomon’s work cart. Claire leaps to the conclusion that he has molested her daughter and fires him. Peyton is basically a 90s “Karen”, a white woman falsely accusing a black man of a crime and ruining his life. Another problem with this story is that Michael and Claire never ask Emma what happened. They just assume it’s true. You’d think they’d take her to therapy to deal with this supposed traumatic event, but they just move on with their lives. That’s some shitty parenting and a big plot hole.
The bad guy always has to go down in the end. We’ve watched these horrible people torture the protagonists for 90% of the film and we want some payoff. This is also when Allie and Claire grow a brain and a backbone. Allie manages to best Hedy in a tense cat and mouse game in their building’s basement then kills her with a screwdriver. It’s appropriate that she gets stabbed in the back. In Cradle, Claire finally figures everything out and confronts her tormentor. Cut to her punching Peyton across a dining room table. I remember when I saw this in a packed theater, back in 1992, and the audience erupted in applause. We were all tired of that bitch. Later, Claire gets the upper hand on Peyton and shoves her out a window. The psycho nanny lands on the white picket fence that Solomon built. Now that’s payback.