top of page
  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Parenthood (1989) ft. Beth Webster

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Guest: Beth Webster, Host - Over 65 and Talking podcast (

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: " need a license to catch a fish! But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father."

Plot Summary: Uptight perfectionist Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) faces the undaunting task of raising three young children. When the children’s flaws and problems become evident, Gil struggles to further deal with them as well as his own feelings of being an inadequate parent. Gil’s family only adds to his stress. He has a poor example of a father (Jason Robards); a sister (Dianne Wiest) facing difficulty with her teenage daughter (Martha Plimpton) and son (Joaquin Phoenix) and another sister (Harley Jane Kozak) who clashes with her husband (Rick Moranis) over parenting style and having more children. Gil's immature brother (Tom Hulce) also turns up with a young son who seems more mature than his father. On the roller coaster of life, will these parents make it to the end of the ride?


  • Ron Howard, Director

  • Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Writers

  • Steve Martin as Gilbert "Gil" Buckman

  • Dianne Wiest as Helen Buckman

  • Mary Steenburgen as Karen Buckman

  • Jason Robards as Francis "Frank" Buckman

  • Rick Moranis as Nathan Huffner

  • Tom Hulce as Lawrence "Larry" Buckman

  • Martha Plimpton as Julia "Julie" Buckman-Higgins

  • Keanu Reeves as Tod Higgins

  • Harley Jane Kozak as Susan Huffner (nee Buckman)

  • Eileen Ryan as Marilyn Buckman

  • Joaquin Phoenix as Gareth "Garry" Buckman-Lampkin

  • Helen Shaw as Grandma

  • Jasen Fisher as Kevin Buckman


  • Parenthood was released on August 2, 1989.

  • The film opened at #1 in its opening weekend, earning $10 million. It eventually grossed over $100 million domestically and $126 million worldwide.

  • Parenthood garnered two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Wiest) and Original Song (Randy Newman).

  • It was also a nominee by the American Film Institute for their 100 Years..100 Laughs series.

  • The movie's central premise has twice been adapted into TV series with one first in 1990 that went for one season on CBS, and a second series in 2010 that ran for six seasons on NBC.

  • Parenthood currently holds a 92% on RT, a 82 score on Metacritic, and a 3.4 out of 5 on Letterboxd.

Did You Know:

  • This movie is based on Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel's experiences as parents.

  • Martha Plimpton plays the older sister of Joaquin Phoenix a.k.a. Leaf Phoenix. In real life, she dated his older brother River Phoenix for nearly five years.

  • According to Ron Howard in an interview, the scene where Helen discovers the nude pictures was actually an incident that happened to producer Brian Grazer.

  • In this film, Steve Martin plays the father of several children. In reality, Steve Martin did not become a parent until he was 67 years old, in 2012.

  • Joaquin Phoenix (still being credited as Leaf Phoenix at this time) was homeless just a short time before he appeared in this movie. His family also belonged to a cult called the Children of God in the 1970s for a while. It was somewhere during this time they all changed their surname from Bottom to Phoenix.

  • In the scene where Gil and Karen are going to Kevin's school to speak to the school principal, the school is Gerald Paris Elementary School, named as an homage to Jerry Paris, who directed 42 episodes of Happy Days (1974). Of course Ron Howard knew this since he worked with him during the run of Happy Days. Clint Howard, Ron's brother who appears in this movie and also appeared in Happy Days, also worked with Paris; as did much of the crew and some of the supporting cast which Howard cultivated from his tv years on Happy Days and Andy Griffith as well.

  • Grandma (Helen Shaw) inhales the helium balloon and says that when she was born, Grover Cleveland was President. Shaw was born on July 25, 1897, just four months and three weeks after the end of Cleveland's second term.

Best Performance: Steve Martin (Gil)/Ron Howard (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Jason Robards (Frank)

Most Charismatic Award: Steve Martin (Gil)/Harley Jane Kozak (Susan)/Keanu Reeves (Tod)

Best Scene:

  • Birthday Baseball Game

  • My Son Cool

  • Cowboy Gil

  • Slapping the Salami

  • Flashcards

  • I'm Not Gil

  • Road Head

  • Frank Asks Gil for Advice

  • Roller Coaster of Life

  • The Bowman Baby

Favorite Scene: Slapping the Salami

Most Indelible Moment: The Bowman Baby/Frank Asks Gil for Advice

In Memorium:

  • David A. Arnold, 54, American comedian, actor, and writer (Fuller House, That Girl Lay Lay, Two Netflix Specials)

  • Bernard Shaw, 82, American journalist, news anchor (CNN)

  • Gayle S. Maffeo, 81, American television producer (Head of the Class, Soul Man, Home Improvement)

  • Jack Ging, 90, American actor (The A-Team, The Eleventh Hour, High Plains Drifter).

  • Marsha Hunt, 104, American actress (Pride and Prejudice, Blossoms in the Dust, The Human Comedy)

  • Jean Luc Godard, 91, French Director ("Father of French New Wave Cinema", À bout de souffle (Breathless), Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier), Le Mépris (Contempt))

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Tod: You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish! But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.

Julie: He said that he loved me.

Helen: Men say that. They all say that. Then they cum.

[after Gil and Karen get into an accident when she tries to "relax" him]

Highway Policeman: So, how did this happen?

Gil: [gives Karen a look] Show him, honey.

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.

Gil: Oh?

Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!

Gil: What a great story.

Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

Larry Buckman: [after he rolls from a moving car, he stands up and brushes himself off] Hi, Dad. Dinner ready?

Frank: [bewildered] What was that?

Larry Buckman: Huh? Oh, some - friends were just dropping me off.

Frank: Friends? Friends slow down, they even stop!

[Larry walks away chuckling as Cool catches up to him]

Karen: Do you really have to go?

Gil: My whole life is "have to."

Helen: Open this door! Goddamnit! I was just like a little respect! Not a lot, just a little! Do you know why I'm having sex with machinery? Because your father went to have a party and I stayed to raise two kids, and I HAVE NO LIFE!

Frank: [on parenting] It's like your Aunt Edna's ass. It goes on forever and it's just as frightening.

Gil: That's true.

Frank: There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.

Kevin Buckman: When you're slidin' into first and you're feelin' somethin' burst, diarrhea! Diarrhea! When you're slidin' into third and you feel a juicy turd, diarrhea! Diarrhea! When you're slidin' into home and your pants are full of foam, diarrhea! Diarrhea! When you're drivin' in your Chevy and your pants are feelin' heavy, diarrhea! Diarrhea!

Karen: Kevin, honey, where did you learn that song?

Kevin Buckman: Last summer at camp, Mom.

Gil: Ah, that was money well spent.

Julie: I can't do this! This is too intense!

Helen: This is marriage!

Frank: Gil, you have a good memory. Uh, was it yours or Helen's or Susan's wedding I got drunk at?

Gil: It was all three, Dad. Congratulations.

Frank: Well, which one did I punch the band leader?

Gil: That was mine. We have photos. I'm having them blown up for the commitment hearings.

Garry: What is it with all the women in this family, that makes all the men in this family wanna leave?

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6.67

Impact/Significance: 7

Novelty: 8.5

Classic-ness: 7.33

Rewatchability: 8.83

Audience Score: 7.75 (79% Google, 76% RT)

Total: 46.08

Remaining Questions:

  • Does Gil have the same anxiety issues as Kevin?

  • Why did we need to shoehorn in the Mr. Bowman storyline at the end?

  • Did this movie handle childhood psychology well?

71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page