- Movie Rating -

First Born (1984)

| October 19, 1984

I knew nothing about Michael Apted’s First Born when I went in, and as the movie opened, I had some hope.  In fact, for the first hour I had hope.  I have never had to deal with divorce or the horror of having to meet Mom’s new boyfriend.  I can imagine that it would be a struggle and I was filled with hope that this movie might be a human drama that wouldn’t fall into the tiresome trap of revealing the new boyfriend as a creep and end with a scene of unsettling violence.

Unfortunately, First Born falls into the trap.  I don’t know, maybe it is easier at the box office if you turn the movie into violent action.  Family dramas aren’t marketable, I suppose.  But still, I imagined that a director like Michael Apted might have been smarter than this.  He’s made great films like Coal Miner’s Daughter and Continental Divide, films with feeling, films about people who move with the patterns of real life.  What happened here?

First Born starts out well but quickly degenerates.  The movie stars Peter Collette as Jake, whose mother (Teri Garr) Wendy has been divorced for the past two years.  Almost out of the blue, she starts dating a guy named Sam.  He’s a reasonably good-looking guy but he has a creep vibe that is off the charts – maybe it’s the approach.  It isn’t long before Sam starts laying down the law in the household which, of course Jake resents.  He’s also wary of Sam’s money-making schemes and suspects that possibly he is using his mother as a cash machine.

Up to this point, I was disappointed but still glad that the movie was functioning on a human level.  It might have been more interesting if Sam had been a responsible stand-up guy who gave Jake no reason to suspect that his intentions were honorable and the two had to learn to trust each other, but again, that’s not marketable at the box office. 

I sat back in my seat and exhaled heavily when drugs came into the picture.  I sunk down when drug dealers broke into the house looking for their product and the kids didn’t call the cops.   I wanted to leave when the mother started using Sam’s product.  And, when Sam started hitting the kids, I wanted the movie to be over.

Why do this?  Why take a potentially interesting subject and turn it into lurid trash?  Why waste good, natural performances on a violent outcome that seems to come from a thousand other movies?  Why not something original, something new, something with a human feeling?  Maybe I’m asking too much.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama