- YEAR: 1993
- DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld
- KEY ACTORS: Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack
- CERTIFICATE: PG
- IMDB SCORE: 6.8
- ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 75%
SEX SCORE: 5/5
✔️ Just so rewatchable!
✔️ I would definitely fuck the cast…
✔️ …and it did inspire fantasies. Gomez and Morticia are the archetypal #RelationshipGoals!
✔️ It has to be sex positive as this movie actively celebrates all types of love and sex between all types of people without shame!
✔️ And it passes the Bechdel Test! 5/5 movie!!
As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…
STREAMING: Paramount Plus (free with subscription) Amazon Prime (rent £3.49, buy £5.99), YouTube (from £2.49). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com
Why are sequels so often more interesting than the original movie? Magic Mike XXL, Grease 2, Incredibles 2, Wonder Woman 1984…all sequels that I have written about without bothering to review the original release! These sequels are not always better, and in the case of Wonder Woman is significantly worse, but I think the fact that the characters are already established and don’t need origin stories creates space for more plot and more intrigue that do make the films more interesting!
And today’s movie – Addams Family Values – is no different. One of very few movies where the sequel is almost universally thought to be better than the original, part of me is a bit surprised that it has taken me so long to write about it as it is a pretty much perfect Sex, Love and Videotape movie, as demonstrated by its 5/5 score! It’s wonderfully made, it has several strong female characters who are in control of their sexuality, it deals with feminist themes that are close to my heart, it’s smart and it’s funny, and I love it!
After introducing us to the famous characters in the original movie, Addams Family Values follows the spooky and kooky family in the next stages of their lives. Morticia (Huston) and Gomez (Julia) have a third child, Pubert, and employ a nappy, Debbie (Cusack), to help with the childcare. The arrival of this baby causes such intense jealousy in Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) that they are sent to summer camp, with appropriately hilarious consequences. Seeing Gomez so happy with his growing family, Uncle Fester (Lloyd) starts to feel lonely in his bachelor life, falls in love with and then marries Debbie…who sadly is a serial killer known as the Black Widow with desires for Fester’s fortune. Of course, her attempts to kill him just confirm Fester’s love and it takes the whole family coming together to save the day!
How I relate to Addams Family Values, and the whole Addams family, has definitely changed as I’ve aged. When I first watched the films as a teenager, I loved Wednesday’s sense of self and absolute refusal to bend or change to society’s expectations. As a younger woman, I related to Fester’s yearning to find someone who loved me as much as Gomez loves Morticia. Someone who could love me just as I am, accepting what I might have perceived as weird habits and unconventional appearances. Now, as a wife and mother of two, I am in awe of Morticia!
In fairness, I always have been. Morticia’s classic style and elegance has always been aspirational, and I have never ever put on a long black dress without wondering if I could possibly look as good as her. But it was only on this rewatch that I fully appreciated how successfully her position as the matriarch of a family full of strong personalities was used to satire traditional family values and make a feminist argument about how women themselves are valued within these families.
Of course, this was all very intentional. Paul Rudnick, the screenwriter, told The Hollywood Reporter, that even the movie’s name was specifically chosen to draw comparisons with these traditional values and hoped to show how oppressive they can be: ‘I did also want the movie’s name to be a response to the Republican Party’s constant harping on “family values,” as if only conservatives could define a loving family. In Republican terms, “family values” is always code for censorship and exclusion, and Republicans still refuse to respect or even acknowledge, for example, LGBTQ families. I like to believe that the Addams Family is far more loving and accepting than their enemies.’ A quote about a film from the early 1990s that is only becoming more relevant…
Despite the obvious misogyny within horror, with sexual women cut down left, right and centre, there is a lot of space within this genre for feminism and an exploration of our dangerous and bloody lives. And more than this, the Addams Family sit in a queerer corner of the genre – Halloween! From the Greenwich Village Halloween Parades that started in 1976 following the Stonewall Riots of 1969 to the proposed queerness of the classic horror characters, such as Dracula and Frankenstein, Halloween has become a ‘queer Christmas,’ a place for outsiders where gender ambiguity and particularly drag has become acceptable and encouraged: ‘Almost all the creatures of horror find themselves as social outcasts, and as such, the genre can be seen as one that celebrates queerness, while also representing the fears and prejudices society has used to attack the queer community.’ And that’s what and who the Addams Family are. They are outsiders and comfortably so, but their exaggerated ‘differences’ from mainstream society are exactly what makes them relatable.
Because this is where Morticia shines! Soon after Baby Pubert is born, she says to Gomez that she’s ‘just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.’ YES! That’s exactly the problem with trying to have it all! There are so many pressures and expectations on parents that we simply don’t have time to do those things that we enjoy and that make us who we are. For me, it’s watching long long movies; for Morticia, it’s hellish crusades, but the effect is the same – we lose sight of ourselves.
Gomez and Morticia have a reputation for being the perfect couple – ‘soulmates, tethered by the same shadows and forged in the same kind of embers’ – but, for me, their love is expressed in more ways than their intense sexual chemistry (more on this later!). As soon as Morticia tells Gomez about how she wishes she had more time, they hire a nanny! Now, the hiring of domestic help, especially when this is usually provided by minority women for wealthy white women, remains a contentious feminist topic but, for me, it falls under the heading of being the lesser of two evils, because it does allow women the freedom to return to work or take time for themselves.
I love that Morticia is given the time and space to be herself because she it means that she has become the role model we all need! Angelica Huston was in her 40s when she was cast and yet, she is still beautiful, elegant, powerful and, most importantly, sexy! Quite aside for how rarely women in their 40s are allowed to be sexy on screen, so much of my research pointed out how differently mothers and wives were portrayed on screen at the same time period. Whether nagging or boring or incompetent, these women ‘reinforced tropes of mothers or ex-wives that are shrill or overbearing.’ Think of Mrs Doubtfire, released the same year as The Addams Family Values, and how Sally Field (aged 47 at the time) nagged and shouted and complained and was essentially the villain of the movie, even before considering how she was shown to be selfish and perhaps a bit ridiculous for seeking a relationship with Pierce Brosnan when she ‘should’ have been saving her marriage to Robin Williams.
And amongst all of this was Morticia – a woman who gets to be sexy and a good mother AND a good wife! The more usual representation of wives as a progressive burden is even used as a sex joke:
Morticia: So… you still desire me after all these years? The old ball and chain?
Morticia: I’ll get them!
I have to say that Gomez and Morticia’s sex lives and evident desire for each other is really fucking aspirational. With two children under 5 and a full time job, I don’t feel like it’ll come as much of a shock to admit that I’ve struggled with desire and my libido since becoming a mother, so I love love loved seeing a marriage portrayed on screen where time and children haven’t dulled their desire and sex remains an important and defining part of their relationship. Obviously, I wish that this had been possible in a couple that weren’t also defined by their otherness and peculiarity but beggars can’t be choosers! Morticia and Gomez are so hot that they literally start fires with their tango, and the hints and in-jokes at their BDSM relationships suggest that they have an equal partnership, exploring their desires together. I love them.
As an aside, my favourite bit of research was discovering that the reason Morticia was filmed with a prominent light over her eyes was an exaggeration of something Huston insists on: ‘I have a clause in my contract that says I can have a key light [to light my face]…Before [Prizzi’s Honour], I didn’t have the power to ask for a key light in my contract. I often found myself so badly lit, that I just put this clause in my contract in order to avoid repeating the same conversation with every director of photography. After that, I would have a key light any time they did close-ups of me. I think Barry and Scott turned that into a running joke: the key light became even smaller, almost envelope-like. Working with that key light feels so good.’ I love love love Huston having the confidence and power to ask for what she needs to be comfortable working. She IS Morticia!
Whereas the original movie was about being true to ourselves and accepting our unique weirdnesses, Addams Family Values teaches us that, as a family, these individual differences can make us stronger, not weaker. Make us better parents even! Morticia and Gomez are able to be there for their children because they don’t feel limited by society’s expectations of what being a parent should look like and are able to revel in their kinky and kooky selves.
I make no apologies that this review is a love letter to Morticia Addams and ignores the other incredible women in Addams Family Values. In the month that I went back to work, leaving my baby at nursery, and the month after my big girl started school, I really needed her! To quote Kayleigh Dray in Stylist, ‘Morticia teaches us to ignore what everyone wants us to do and embrace our own badass selves for who we truly are. To be unafraid to stand out from the crowd. And, above all else, to let go of the fucking patriarchy and be our best feminist self.’
This Halloween, I might be dressing up as Morticia but I intend to channel her throughout the rest of the year. That amount of power really shouldn’t be confined to Spooky Season!
NEXT TIME… Fair Play
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