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Analysis of the movie “Parenthood”

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Parenthood could be dismissed as nothing more than a feel good movie for yuppies struggling with the complications of raising children. If it were not so well made, it most certainly would suffer that fate. Clearly, it is targeted at a certain demographic group. After all, the subtitle says, “It could happen to you.”

The movie is about the parental challenges faced by four siblings. Gil Buckman is a self-conscious dad, desperately concerned about being a better parent than his own father. His sisters are struggling with their own family issues: one a single parent and the other trying to raise a genius-child. Gil’s brother is the black sheep of the family – shirking responsibilities and always looking for a free ride.

The story begins when Gil and Karen are told that their son Kevin must go to a special school next year due to his behavior problems. They begin to blame each other and then they come up with various crackpot ideas. “We’ll throw away the TV,” Gil blurts out. “We’ll perform Shakespeare in front of him.”

Interlaced with the humor is a multigenerational parenthood story. Frank is the family’s patriarch, and Gil is one of his children. Most shows concentrate on the kids, but this show stays true to its title and focuses almost exclusively on parenthood itself, including relationship of adults to their parents. Gil flashes back with daydreams about his relationship with his father when he was young, and forward to a dream of his son being valedictorian and thanking him in the commencement speech. When things don’t go quite as Gil wishes, the dreams turn to nightmares of Kevin being a campus sniper.

Gil resents the way his father ignored him when he was young. Gil does not understand Kevin either although he certainly tries harder than his dad did. “Where does he get this excessive behavior?” Gil asks about Kevin, while Gil obsessively washes his hands.

After being detestable in most of the movie, Frank finally becomes sympathetic toward the conclusion. “It never ends,” Frank tells Gil about fatherhood. Leave it to Grandma to explain it all. Although some people like merry-go-rounds, she says she has always preferred the roller coaster. Gil realizes his life is a roller coaster, and he comes to relish it.

Developmental Theory – Gil Buckman

Gil Buckman is clearly in his early forties and in Erickson’s stage of generativity versus stagnation. He is desperately trying to leave a legacy of himself to his son Kevin; yet, feels discouraged because he senses that Kevin will never become an adult. Gil wants to fix everyone’s problems in the family but receives no support and constant set backs through his efforts.

Through parental generativity, Gil provides nurture and guidance to Kevin. He guides Kevin through teaching, parenting, and leading. Gil feels committed to providing Kevin with the nurture he needs to be able to succeed in life. Gil feels he has a weak grasp on Kevin’s development, but though parental guidance he will regain his positive influence and Kevin will eventually become his own person.

Gil Buckman also displays Daniel Levinson’s developmental theory. Gil seeks a normal and stable life, but he is going through a mid-life crisis. The mid-life crisis becomes exaggerated which creates stress throughout the entire family.

Developmental Theory – Frank Buckman

Frank Buckman displays Erickson’s developmental theory of integrity versus despair. Frank appears to be in his mid sixties and approaches life with a sense of humor. Frank desperately seeks integrity of being the older adult and having lived through what Gil is experiencing; yet, he feels despair from his parental actions which played a role in Gil’s youth. Frank realizes he was not the perfect father and glances toward the negativity, yet at the same time, he struggles to keep his knowledge and wisdom at the front of the family crisis. Frank’s family is an important part at his age and he needs to feel that he has a part in supporting the decisions his children make.

Parenthood approaches each family member issues in a light and humorous way. This is an emotionally manipulative film, and is not particularly sophisticated in its manipulation. I feel the ending takes things a bit too far by slamming us in the head with its message about the joy of having children.

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