I Remember Mama (1948)

IRememberMamaCoverTo: Kathryn Forbes

From: MonsterHunter Publishing

Re: Your Submission

We are in receipt of your stories about your mama that you’ve gone and turned into a movie. Since we aren’t in the practice of actually reading, we were forced to watch the movie version of your book, Mama’s Bank Account. Frankly, we are not convinced of the complete veracity of your tales. Is the audience really expected to believe that a simple woman from Norway could overcome such soul-shattering odds as a sick kitten or a child with an earache? We can only assume that you felt your mother’s war against indigestion and the time she had a bad haircut was simply too much for the audience to handle.

The movie tells the story of how you wrote about growing up with Mama (Irene Dunn) and Papa. You have a brother and some sisters as well as one of those extended families that all you immigrants seem to have. (Don’t you leave anyone back in the home country? We have this image of Norway being a bunch of abandoned igloos overrun by reindeer.)

The point of your story seems to be some type of fond recollection about what a sacrificing saint your mother was, always putting off getting herself a warm coat so that she could waste the family’s money on stuff like medical emergencies and high school for your brother.

This is obviously just some type of pathetic wish-fulfillment stuff because all of us know that living with a mama who is a tightwad and always in our face about all the sacrificing she does isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. You just want to say, “yeah, yeah, that’s great that you put off those cancer treatments again so that you could buy me the latest Grand Theft Auto, but you’re blocking the screen and I’ve almost completed the first mission”.

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We notice that you make some earnest attempts to utilize the “wacky family” aspect of things and that’s not a bad idea. People are easily tricked into liking goofs with foreign accents, especially when its a bunch of noisy, bossy women.

Here, you have Mama who is pretty bossy by any stretch and her sisters sure try to be bossy, but there’s very little humor in any of this. In fact, the most you get out of anyone is when your Mama throws out her quickly forgotten and just as quickly loathed catch-phrase, “eeese gude” whenever she wants to make some kind of point, like how much money she still has left after budgeting for a ten cent notebook for one your sisters.

To your credit, you do bring in Uncle Chris, the loud, obnoxious uncle who limps and takes no guff from his ugly nieces, but has a soft spot in his head for you and your mama, but he doesn’t get to do enough and your efforts to redeem him at the end of the movie by revealing that he had spent all of his money paying the medical bills of kids who have leg problems, seems forced at best and a little bit creepy at worst.

Still, we think the plot point where he married his housekeeper in secret as well as when he was dressing down the funeral parlor owner who was going to marry one of Mama’s sisters and wanted Chris to provide him a dowry for her, were high points in an otherwise unremarkable family drama.

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One of the biggest problems with all of this is that there isn’t much of anything to keep the viewer interested. You spend a good deal of time setting up the fact that Mama is always worried about money, but there’s never any payoff, except that at the end of the movie it is revealed that Mama never had any bank account at all!

Mama says that she only told the lie about having a bank account so that you kids wouldn’t worry about them being poor. Uh, considering the fact that every time some kid wanted to get a dime to buy a notebook from school, it required a family meeting and some elaborate figuring from Mama along with the usual declaration that “I’ll get a heavy coat some other time” it didn’t seem like she was doing much in the way of protecting her kids from anything other than an expectation that they would be getting anything for Christmas.

Just so you don’t think we’re totally unfair, none of the problems are really Irene Dunne’s fault, though that accent got on our nerves. The material just isn’t up to snuff. Here’s my question to you: since we’ve already seen Irene Dunne as the matriarch of a large, wacky family in the superior Life With Father, why would we have any interest in this?

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We could probably tolerate your rather pedestrian episodes of Mama’s life better if the family were composed of characters we wanted to watch. These people exhibit very little in the way of liveliness and whereas the family in Life With Father was loud, energetic, and always scheming about something or other, your Norwegian family was closer to Norwegian wood.

Give these people some personality. Mama and Papa could have especially benefited from an operation to remove the sticks in their butt. Mama comes off as this unapproachable paragon of motherhood, rather than a human being.

Our advice is to send your submission to whomever you weaseled $500 out of for your first story (which according to this movie is actually the subject of the movie, which probably presents some sort of threat to the space-time continuum and is thus another reason we simply can’t use your submission) and see if you can trade on their pro-mother sympathies to get them to use it. Us? We’ll stick with Life With Father. Or even the hit TV sitcom Mama’s Family.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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