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Parenthood is a 1989 comedy-drama film with an ensemble cast that includes Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, Tom Hulce, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves, Harley Jane Kozak, Eileen Ryan, Helen Shaw, Jasen Fisher, Alisan Porter, Zachary LaVoy, Ivyann Schwan, Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix), and Dennis Dugan.

The film was directed by Ron Howard, who assisted in developing the story with screenwriters Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel. Much of the film is based on the family and parenting experiences of Howard, Ganz, Mandel, and producer Brian Grazer, who have at least 14 children among the four of them. The filming was partially done at the University of Floridamarker.

Parenthood was nominated for two Academy Awards: Dianne Wiest for Best Supporting Actress, and Randy Newman for Best Song for "I Love to See You Smile".

The movie was adapted into a television series on two separate occasions, in 1990 and again in 2009.


Gil Buckman (Steve Martin), a neurotic sales executive, is trying to balance a family in suburban St. Louismarker and his career. He wants to be an active father, rather than a distant one like his own father was.

His parenting skills are put under more pressure when he finds out that his wife Karen (Mary Steenburgen) is pregnant with their fourth child, which he is unsure he can handle, and that his eldest son, Kevin, may have emotional problems, social anxiety, or possibly Asperger syndrome. Gil begins to blame himself and deeply question his abilities as a father.

In addition, the financial burdens of another child and office politics at work may mean becoming the workaholic he despised his own father for being. When his father comes to Gil for advice on how to deal with Larry (Gil's wayward brother) and says he is asking Gil's advice because Gil is a good father, Gil has some closure about his feelings toward his father.

His sister Helen (Dianne Wiest) is divorced and her dentist ex-husband is not involved with their children, Garry and Julie. He has a new wife and young son to whom he is very devoted and wants nothing to do with Garry or Julie. At first, Garry appears to be a very disturbed boy (Joaquin Phoenix, credited as Leaf Phoenix). He is quiet, uninvolved and likes to be alone in his room with a mysterious paper bag. Garry is beginning to go through puberty. (Helen worries at first that the bag contains drugs or alcohol but the bag was actually filled with porn that he would masturbate to in his room.)

Helen's daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton) is still in high school, but struggling even though she got 1300 on her SATs. She is already having sex with her slacker boyfriend Tod Higgins (Keanu Reeves), and the two of them want to start their lives together. They get married and begin to live at her mother's house. Tod's presence in the house provides comfort to Garry who begins to be happy after being told that he is normal. Helen is insecure about her parenting abilities at the beginning, but her strength grows as she supports her daughter when Tod is in a drag racing accident. She ultimately marries Garry's biology teacher who becomes the loving father figure that Garry in particular was so desperate to have.

Gil's other sister, Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) is a middle school science teacher married to an intelligent but arrogant husband, Nathan Huffner (Rick Moranis). They have a sweet, precocious daughter, Patty. Susan wants more children, but Nathan is overly obsessed with their daughter's cognitive development and as a result, she is unable to relate to other children. Susan lashes out by eating junk food hidden in the closet, and by compromising her diaphragm as a plan to get pregnant despite her husband's wishes. She eventually gets so frustrated with the situation that she leaves her family, causing Patty to struggle with her work and Nathan to eventually drop by one of her classes unexpectedly in an effort to win her back. He is successful, as Susan moves back into their home.

Finally, Gil's youngest sibling is his brother Larry (Tom Hulce) who, rather than settle into a career, has drifted through life trying to cash in on get-rich-quick schemes. Though he is the black sheep of the family, he is their father's favorite (mainly because he reminds him of himself at a younger age). He has recently shown up, along with his bi-racial son, Cool (who was the result of a brief affair with a Las Vegas showgirl), and wants to borrow money from his father both for another of his get-rich-quick schemes and to pay off gambling debts. His father decides to help him, but in the process recognizes that his son will never stop wasting his life. Frank agrees to keep Cool after he is left in his care and realizes that he and his wife would be raising him. (The implication is that he paid off Larry's debt but decided to cut him out of his life once and for all.)

The film ends on a sentimental note with a new generation of Buckman children being born and the personal growth of the parents. For example, Frank lovingly hugs and cuddles his grandson Cool demonstrating that he changed his distant ways.

Criticial and commercial reception

The film was well-received by critics, and maintains a 92% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Television series

The film was adapted for television in 1990 and broadcast on NBC. The television version was a critical flop and was quickly cancelled, but is notable for featuring an unusual number of people who at the time were unheard of but later became famous. One of the writers on the show was Joss Whedon. The cast featured child actors Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, and Thora Birch. The show was featured on the now-defunct cable network Trio in 2005 as part of their "Brilliant But Cancelled" series of shows that were cancelled before their time.

New series

In April 2009 filming began on a new television adaptation of the movie. Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia play the parental roles, they are joined by Peter Krause, Mae Whitman, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham and Monica Potter.


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