First of all I need to say very loudly and clearly that I love my mom and I would never want to trade her in for anyone else. And I am not just saying that because she sometimes reads Cinematical. However, I know I'm not the only person who has watched a mom do something especially wonderful in movies and wish for a split-second that my own mother would do that. I'm not, right?
So just in time for Mother's Day this weekend (psst: have you sent a card yet?), here's a list of seven female characters I've enjoyed watching in movies, whom I've wished very briefly and in a non-serious way were my mom. Some of them are not actually mothers, but are in charge of a child in some admirable way. I can recall plenty of other parent characters I've liked watching, but that isn't the same as wanting them in charge of your childhood self. No matter who plays her, Mama Rose in Gypsy is too scary a mother for my liking, and we won't even talk about Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.
Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell) in Auntie Mame
Well, of course you knew this would top my list. Who wouldn't imagine the fun you could have with a 1920s character like Russell's witty, well-dressed Auntie Mame? (We won't speak of Lucille Ball.) I always felt that young Patrick Dennis was quite the little stick in the mud about his situation, too. I wish my parents had taught me how to mix a perfect martini. Now that I'm older, I also have occasional days when I want to be Auntie Mame, but I suspect my brother and sister are never going to fall for that one.
Brenda MacGuff (Allison Janney) in Juno
Allison Janney has played some of the worst moms and authority figures on the big screen: enjoyably in the Hairspray remake and as the romance-writing guidance counselor in Ten Things I Hate About You, and almost cringingly in American Beauty. It's considered the thing these days to dismiss Juno as something trendy that we are now too cool to appreciate. But the scene in which Janney's stepmom character confronts the ultrasound technician is one of the finest moments in the film -- I'd want my mom to do the same exact thing.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens
Ripley may not be June Cleaver by any means. However, if you were Newt, the abandoned little girl in Aliens, you'd want a mom just like that, who would go to incredible lengths to keep you safe. She's also kind to cats.
Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) in Whip It
Wiig's character doesn't get as much onscreen time as I'd like in Whip It and we don't even find out she's a mom until about halfway through the film, although she's a good mentor for rollergirl-wannabe Bliss. Still, let's face it: I only added her character to the list because I think it would be supercool to have a mom in the rollerderby. Besides, Wiig does give one of the best performances in the film, right behind Marcia Gay Harden as Bliss's actual mom. I liked Harden's character but I had no desire to be her daughter (well, maybe just a bit at the end).
Mary Rowengartner (Amy Morton), Rookie of the Year
I am not usually interested in sports movies starring little boys, and saw Rookie of the Year more or less by accident. But Daniel Stern's 1993 movie about a kid whose arm injury transforms him into a major-league pitcher is one of the best of this genre, and I still remember it all these years later. Most of all I remember the kid's mom, who is not like your usual sports-movie supportive mom. I absolutely love the scene in which she decks someone, and another scene in which she reveals a small secret had me almost in tears, which you know I hate doing (or admitting to). A very sweet, surprisingly good movie that you should all go rent immediately.
Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston), The Royal Tenenbaums
Apart from her questionable judgment in marrying Royal Tenenbaum before the film's action begins, Etheline appears to be a model parent. She encourages her children to try all kinds of creative things, and even mothers the boy across the street. You get the impression that the kids are all successful because of their mom and messed up because of their dad. She even welcomes her grownup children back home, although puzzled by their return. I can't imagine what my mom would do if all of us turned up on her doorstep, practically at once. (Aside to Mom: I know you'd welcome us all in quite happily. Of course.)
Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand), Almost Famous
Despite a lot of maternal nagging via telephone, Mrs. Miller lets her son travel on tour with a rock band in hopes of pursuing a story for Rolling Stone. I am not sure my mom would have let me even go backstage to visit said rock band when I was William's age, for fear I might have turned out more like Penny Lane. And I do love the phone conversation Mrs. Miller has with Russell, Stillwater's guitarist. McDormand in Almost Famous is a much better mom than the one she played nearly 13 years earlier in Raising Arizona.