Ron Howard is the director of Backdraft, Apollo 13, and the Paper. All engaging films about different topics. But notice how they all hinge on the subject of human relationships. It makes Parenthood an ideal fit among the director’s work. Parenthood is a drama with a nice kind of humor. Its amusement grows out of moments from ordinary life. For example, although it’s normal for a father to get excited while watching his son perform well at little league baseball, it isn’t impossible for his imagination to get carried away. In Parenthood, Steve Martin imagines his son at a high school graduation, speaking at a podium and giving countless thanks to him for being a role model.
The narrative deals with many members of one family and cross cuts between their scenarios. There’s a daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton) whose boyfriend Tod (Keanu Reeves) is disapproved by her mother Helen (Dianne West). Plus her younger brother Garry (Joaquin Phoenix) won’t speak to either of them. Then there is Gil (Steve Martin), a hardworking dad aiming for a promotion at the office. His wife is Karen (Mary Steenburgen) and they have three kids plus one on the way. Gil’s brother is Nathan (Rick Moranis) who is overly concerned about his daughter’s future and speaks to her as if she were an adult. She looks five years old. Then there’s a grandfather Frank (Jason Robards) who shows favoritism to his son Larry (Tom Hulce), a gambler. And a grandma (Helen Shaw) seeming oblivious to the events around her but is not without wisdom. All have different personalities and the narrative is able to give ample attention to each one. It even gets them together for a reunion. It does help that famous actors like Steve Martin or Dianne West are in Parenthood. But the film ,from a screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, deals with many truths about family life and manages to find harmless humor in it.