With his first supposedly “mainstream” movie, John Waters slapped with all his corrosive energy the last, untouchable American stronghold: maternal figure. With his dark, gory masterpiece about a housewife who fights against human decadence killing everyone who doesn’t match her elevate standards, the director of Pink Flamingos (1972) and Polyester (1981) turns the classic family comedy into a crazy, refreshing carousel of nonsense. Serial Mom’s primary quality is without any possible doubt Kathleen Turner, the actress who in the 80s and 90s dazzled with her charming ambiguity like no one else in Hollywood. After iconic movies like Body Heat (1981), China Blue (1984), Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and The War of the Roses (1989) the actress adds to her filmography another character which is quite difficult to love, and still impossible to hate. Her Beverly Sutphin looks like Lucille Ball possessed by Ted Bundy’s soul: behind the surface of her reassuring smile hides the mind of a reckless and unstoppable killer. Waters uses Turner’s histrionic skills to shape a movie without a specific plot, which holds almost entirely on her shoulders to portray the hypocrisy and righteousness of American values. The result is a crazy journey into rich, white suburbia where everything is perfect only because people want to see it that way – yet not John Waters, who is as eager as always to push the audience to engage with the horror of contemporary society.
Released ironically in 1994 – the same year of another complex study of the “American Dream” like Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump – Serial Mom shows once more the specificity of John Waters’ wit, his personal vision of what we should laugh about: first of all ourselves.