Mrs. Bates and other memorable movie mothers

05/12/2013 8:56 AM

08/08/2014 10:16 AM

My current viewing obsession is the deliciously addictive “Bates Motel,” a series on A&E that is a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic chiller “Psycho.”

The show has bravura acting, with Freddie Highmore starring as a young Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as his mother, Norma.

Now there’s a piece of work. Norma is a classic hot mess. She’s at once selfish yet caring. She’s feisty, whiny, manipulative, doting and high-strung. But she has good intentions.

And her maternal instincts are downright feral. She will stop at nothing to protect her children. Frighteningly so.

It’s a great character, one in a long line of captivating onscreen moms. So in honor of Mother’s Day, here are 10 fascinating movie mothers — some that I’m glad aren’t real mothers.

•  Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) in “Terms of Endearment” (1983) — She was none too happy about becoming a grandmother, but Aurora was fiercely in charge as a mother, and stepped up to care for her sick daughter (Debra Winger) no matter how great their differences.

•  Florence “Rusty” Dennis (Cher) in “Mask” (1985) — A tough motorcycle mama to the core, she showed her facially deformed son the utmost love and respect by not treating him like he had a handicap — he was the most beautiful thing in the world to her.

•  Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (voice of Holly Hunter) in “The Incredibles” (2004) — She said goodbye to her superhero life when she became a dedicated mother and never regretted it. She wanted her family to live a normal life, sure, but she didn’t mind turning into a parachute to save the day, either.

•  Margaret White (Piper Laurie) in “Carrie” (1976) — So uptight and religiously fanatic that she referred to breasts as “dirty pillows,” she was far from mother of the year. But she was an unforgettable character who literally stabbed her daughter in the back. (Julianne Moore will play her in the upcoming remake.)

•  Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand) in “Almost Famous” (2000) — She was everything that her kids rebelled against, the antithesis of cool, but she loved her kids and wasn’t changing her ways for anything. Because. She. Knew. Better.

•  Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo) in the “Vacation” movies (1980s) — Patience is a virtue, especially if you’re married to a dork. And she didn’t seem to mind that her kids kept changing appearances.

•  Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) in “The Blind Side” (2009) — Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Memphis mama, who was a gun-toting member of the NRA and packed heat in her purse. And she wasn’t afraid to use it if her kids were threatened.

•  Mrs. Gump (Sally Field) in “Forrest Gump” (1994) — While not departing wisdom to her son, Forrest, she saw to it that he got the same opportunities as everyone else, and refused to believe that he was dimwitted.

•  Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) in “The Fighter” (2010) — As imperfect as could be, she showed favoritism, she was loud and mouthy and she chain-smoked. But she cared for her loony family no matter what.

•  Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” — All lean muscle, she knew the fate of the world was her responsibility and if anyone messed with her kid, it was hasta la vista, baby.

About Movie Maniac

The Eagle's Rod Pocowatchit offers his musings on the screen scene.

Reach Rod at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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