Aaron Stanford makes his debut as Oscar Grubman, a fifteen year old intellect with an obsession for Voltaire who returns home to New York to visit his family. He has a bad crush on his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver) unbeknownst to his inept father Stanley (John Ritter) but accidentally gets entangled in an affair with her flirtatious friend Diane (Bebe Neuwrith) who becomes infatuated with Oscar’s intelligent personality and begins to play mind games with him as he desperately tries to conceal the affair from his stepmother. Aaron Stanford skillfully portrays this kid who’s always one step ahead of everyone… or at least he thinks he is.
We get an idea of his character as he chats with his friend played by Charles Iler (The Sopranos) about women and school. He’s hit on by the school hotty on the train who obviously has affections for him, but he coldly denies her stating he doesn’t like her hands. Like me he bears an attraction to older women and dismisses her as just a bubble-head. You never truly get the idea of what he is about as his character constantly contradicts his own throughout the entire film. He acts very much like an adult, so much so that at one point he’s drinking at a bar and is never asked his age, yet still reveals he’s ultimately a child when Eve reveals she used to love men in sideburns and he ends up cutting a dogs hair and pasting them to the sides of his head making fake sideburns.
Very much a Brady Bunch moment and a big contradiction of his character which is ultimately very fascinating. Bebe Neuwrith is also a very interesting character and also proves to be a contradiction of the Eve character. Eve (Sigourney Weaver) is ultimately a mother figure and not very attractive yet Oscar is in love with her but Diane, who is very well played by Bebe Neuwrith is seductive, man crazy and incredibly sexy yet Oscar is very turned off by her. I think in some cases the reason why Oscar is in love with Eve is that he inadvertently seeks out to give her the attention his father Stanley doesn’t give her and never really realizes it until the ending which is ultimately realistic and doesn’t glorify the situation. The movie is very intelligent and doesn’t talk down to the audience at all making all the situations very realistic.
There are certain moments that had me laughing aloud like when he confronts Diane’s boyfriend, and when he’s trying to keep Diane from getting drunk. Ultimately the movie is an analysis of these types of characters whom are symbols and contradictions in every shape and form. The movie tries very hard to be a smarter “The Graduate” but never truly reaches that pinnacle. The film often includes these odd and completely uncomfortable fantasy sequences of Oscar envisioning he and his stepmother in love but at times it comes off as too cheesy and looks like something you’d see in a “Brady Bunch” episode. I wish they’d shown John Ritter a lot more because he’s very believable with the inept characters and I didn’t really get the distinction that he had a distant relationship with Eve at all until the director has to pretty much draw a picture for the audience.
Ritter is a very underrated dramatic actor and doesn’t truly get any good roles. A lot of times even the audience feels distant from his character as we never really know him all that well. Aaron Stanford is a gifted actor and truly helps this movie’s comedy and makes his character likable despite the fact that he’s a basically pretentious guy. Bebe Neuwrith is probably the best supporting character in the film spewing sexuality and seduction becoming a symbol of sexuality that this guy shockingly rejects. The movie is very well directed and has some very good comedic scenes that don’t lighten the tone but add some kick to the plot and storyline. It’s a flawed but satisfying movie with a great leading man, and a slew of great supporting performances.