If you've seen the previews for Stepmom, you may be surprised when you don't find the expected situation comedy. But to explain what your family will find in this movie, beware that I must reveal the film's secrets.
Young sexy career woman Isabel (Julia Roberts) falls for older father Luke (Ed Harris), and is inept at dealing with his two children while real mom Jackie (Susan Sarandon) is the model mother who appears to have written the book on child-raising. Isabel is the last person Jackie would ever want to leave her children with.
Expecting perfection, we take close notice of the day Jackie fails to pick up her children from school on time. Isabel thinks she's found a man, but we know that Jackie is battling cancer. With her life on the line and in concern for her children, Jackie is forced to begin coping with her resentment toward Isabel.
The plot raises a lot of complex questions, but only delivers the vaguest of answers. For instance, if Jackie didn't feel that she had absolutely no other choice, would she trust the raising of her children to a woman like Isabel? And would a career-centered woman like Isabel want to be raising children in the first place?
The children ask their father, "Can you fall out of love with mom, but not with your children?" Dad's assuring words may placate these children, but I wonder about those in the audience who have experienced this grief themselves. And what will make Luke's marriage with Isabel any more stable than the one he had with Jackie? Meanwhile, the children in the film (and yours watching it) are often an audience to frank sexual discussions and heated confrontations that include profanities.
If nothing else, this movie teaches about forgiveness and sacrificing your own desires for the good of others, but in the case of this love triangle, contriving a "'till death do you part" ending is the only way to let this story finish "happily ever after".
Many other questions without clear answers are proposed in this film, some of which are discussed in the review. Although we cannot recommend this movie for all ages, if your children do see it, ask them if they would be satisfied with the answers provided by the adults in Stepmom.