Enough crying already! Lisa Schwarzbaum doesn't know why they release sob stories like 'Stepmom' at holiday time
James Van Der Beek
Credit: George Lange

No More Tears

Call me crazy, but my idea of holiday movie fun does not involve watching a famous actress play a mom dying of cancer. Life is complicated enough at the end of December; In my ideal multiplex, the week leading up to Christmas would include round-the-clock showings of “This Is Spinal Tap,” “The Thin Man,” and “A Christmas Carol” starring Mr. Magoo.

I’m thinking of this because coming out on Christmas Day is “Stepmom,” in which Susan Sarandon plays a divorced woman who must deal with the terrible news that she’s sick and going to die, leaving her adored children in the care of the soon-to-be-official stepmother she resents, Julia Roberts. It is, of course, hard to imagine resenting Julia Roberts for anything except, perhaps, for the fact that she wasted any time at all on Kiefer Sutherland. Still, ex-wives have their reasons. (“Stepmom” follows “One True Thing,” in which Meryl Streep played a mom dying of cancer, but at least she had the good grace to die soon after Labor Day. So did the movie.) Besides, “Stepmom” is merely following the grand tradition of “Terms of Endearment,” that wonderful, shameless, dying-mom tearjerker, which increased Kleenex sales dramatically on Christmas Day 15 years ago.

But I’ve got my reasons, too. Who needs such agita? Much as I enjoy a well-made movie-induced sob, I need to be steeled for the experience. I need to plan my eye-puffiness. (Men: Can you relate to this at all? Women: Are the men telling the truth?) Maybe the thing to do is steer clear of Sarandon and Roberts at least until sheets and towels go on sale in January, that gloomy kick-off to the year when a good cry is in order. Until then, give me “Star Trek” adventure, “A Simple Plan” shivers, or “You’ve Got Mail” romance. And give my tear ducts a break.

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