Stepmom: About Death and Dying

Movie Review: Stepmom By: For: November 16th, 2010 REL201 The film step mom beautifully portrays the effects death and dying can have on a family. Even one like the Harrison’s, where the parents are split up, and and a new women has come into Luke’s live. Their will always be different ways of coping with death and that is shown through all the characters, be it strong willed like Luke and Jackie, negatively and dramatically like the daughter Anna, or positively and unaware like the son Ben. All these different ways of coping make this film an ideal one to view the different ways one can cope.
Throughout the film Stepmom death is shown as both a negative and positive affecting occurrence. When the main character Jackie Harrison is first told that her diagnosed cancer has became much worse, she is spiteful and hate-filled. She resents the fact that her recently divorced husband is now getting married to a younger woman, she is also angry that her marriage to Luke didn’t work out, and is also saddened at the fact that she will never live to see her children grow up. The positive aspects of death in this film is that Jackie soon realizes that she has to come to grips with her inevitable death.
This allows her to live her remaining months in peace with her children and even become happy with Luke and Jena Malone getting married. In the circumstance on Jackie Harrison, death is not presented as a natural part of the life cycle. Cancer, is a modern problem with no modern cure as of yet. It endangers and ends many young lives throughout the world. Jackie was already diagnosed with cancer a year before, however, when she went for a re-evaluation it was found that the cancer had re-appeared and had intensified in her body. This shows that cancerous cells can begin to form at anytime in one’s body and is not a atural part of the life cycle. In the case of Jackie there are two sides. At first when re-diagnosed she is very fearful. Not for herself, but rather for her children. Jackie is afraid that she will not be able to see her children again, and be able to watch them grow up and lead fulfilling lives. She is delivered more bad news at a dinner by her ex-husband. Luke tells Jackie that he is to marry Jena Malone. Jackie is angered again and can not bare to tell Luke that she is in fact dying of cancer and will not be around to raise their children. Another scene depicting anger is after Ben falls off the play structure and eeds stitches.

At the hospital she tries to see her son, but Jena is already there comforting him. He asks Jena to sing her a song because “Mommy always does” (Stepmom). As Jackie looks on from outside the room Jena sings for Ben and she is angered by this and goes home and has a fit in her home. Jena uncovers Jackie’s secret through a conversation they have at her home. She tells Jena that she is infect going to L. A. to see an oncologist for treatment. Jena is saddened to hear that the ex-wife is dying of cancer and asks “are you dying? “, to which Jackie replies “Not today…” (Stepmom). This in turn affects Luke who is the next o find out and thus feels guilty. He feels as though it should have been him and not Jackie. They decide to tell the children about the cancer together and this scene provides the most dramatic effect of the movie. Ben takes the news very lightly and is intrigued as to what his mom is enduring, there is a doubt as to how much Ben knows about the situation. He thinks it’s less serious then it actually is. The daughter Anna, is immediately angered by the news and storms off. As she heads upstairs Luke yells “You do not run out on your mother”, and she replies “No that’s your job” (Stepmom).
This scene is important because it shows how the family as an entirety deals with death. The message of the film Stepmom is too fully appreciate one’s life to the fullest while you can, and to truly live like you we’re dying. It also has many family values attached to the death process. Jackie who has always enjoyed her children now see’s the reasons to why she is truly enjoying them. After hearing that her cancer has got worse she decides to stay home and take time with to be with her family. Luke even becomes more involved with her as her condition worsens, something he never did when they we’re together and she was healthy.
A kind of ironic tragedy. It also portrays that Jackie will never be able to be replaced as the children’s mother but Jena can do more by being there for them while they live on without Jackie. In one of the lasts scenes Jena and Jackie make amends and realize that the kids won’t have to choose and that they could love them both. “I have their past, and you can have their future” (Stepmom) is what Jackie says in comfort to Jena. The white dove that Ben always asks about has dual meaning throughout the film. Ben believes every magician needs a white dove, but the dove in fact symbolizes freedom and life.
The symbolism of the dove also has heavy meaning towards Jackie. It would represent her long after she is gone and would be the confidant of the young Ben. In the final scene at Christmas time, Jackie is at this point very ill. When Ben comes upstairs to Jackie’s room to get his present from her she is alone in a chair. She smiles and gives Ben a magician’s cape to continue living his childhood dream of becoming one someday. She then goes downstairs after Anna comes to get her, and helps Luke, Jena and Ben perform a magic trick to uncover the white dove in the cage underneath the magician’s cape.
It is symbolic because this white dove will represent Jackie and her continued support of her son long after she is gone. Stepmom was a great film to watch in terms of understanding how a family can cope with death and dying. It shows the contrasts of family values, ways of coping with death and also the support system a family can have throughout times of crisis. Even though Jackie and Luke were no longer together they found a way to make things work when the children and Jackie needed it the most. It is inspiring to see such love and compassion in a difficult situation, even when at the eginning of the film there was nothing but resentment towards each other, a common bond, brought them together and closer then ever, even if it was a negative one. Cancer continues to be a serious threat for today’s modern society and we must continue the fight against to someday have a cancer free earth.
Bibliography: I) Stepmom, DVD, Directed by Chris Columbus, (1998) Columbia Pictures, Hollywood. California II) http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569562/pdf/jnma00195-0137. pdf Heather M. Butts,JD,MPH III) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Stepmom_(film) IV) http://www. mediacircus. net/stepmom. html

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