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Susan Sarandon plays a mother who competes with her kids' new stepmother in "Stepmom"

'Stepmom' aims to tell all sides of the story

Web posted on:
Wednesday, December 23, 1998 9:11:51 AM EST

From Reporter Jill Brooke

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- It's not hard to guess what the film "Stepmom" is about. The movie depicts the struggles of stepfamilies, a subject that affects more than 50 percent of American families.

But Susan Sarandon, who stars as the birth mother in this film, and Julia Roberts, who plays the stepmother, have given a fresh voice to a familiar story.

Thanks to the clout of the two actresses, who had veto power over the script, the film tackles the topic in an honest way.

Theatrical preview for "Stepmom"
Windows Media: 28k or 56k
Real: 28k or 56k

Julia Roberts

"It doesn't take sides," says Sarandon. "Any position in the family can be understood from watching this movie. Everyone is present -- mom, dad, siblings, step, and all relationships addressed."

The movie is directed by Chris Columbus, who has experience with the warm-hearted family film genre -- he also helmed "Mrs. Doubtfire," starring Robin Williams, and Macaulay Culkin's rocket to success, "Home Alone."

In his latest film, viewers see the perspective of a father -- played by Ed Harris -- who has to referee; the perspective of the stepmother, who feels she's in a no-win situation; the children's perspective; and the perspective of the children's mother, in a scene where the stepmom wins points for approaching a problem differently than the mom did.

Ed Bradley

There was some controversy over whether the movie should even be called "Stepmom," a term which even in modern society still carries a substantial stigma. The actresses say the title made it sound like a slasher film, a Grimm's fairy tale -- anything but a heartwarming family movie.

But Roberts says this isn't like other movies. For one thing, other movies put things in black and white, good guys versus bad.

"You want to vilify the other person," says Roberts. "It makes us show we trust the audience to show that one isn't the good one or the bad one. Both make mistakes. Hating someone and holding on to bad feelings feels more productive, when in fact it's not."

"Stepmom" opens nationwide on Christmas Day.

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