Brian De Palma Roger Greenspun - Essay

Roger Greenspun

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Among contemporary urban-scene-movies … Brian De Palma's "Hi, Mom!" stands out for its wit, its ironic good humor, its multilevel sophistications, its technical ingenuity, its nervousness, and its very special ability to bring the sensibility of the suburbs to the sins of the inner city. With no recognizable landmark further north than Cooper Square, it nevertheless feels like Bronxville or the quieter stretches of the upper East Side.

Not that it aspires to quietness or that it even for a second eschews relevancy….

"Hi, Mom!" turns approximately every other current social misery to a comedy that is sometimes quite elaborately successful and sometimes only well intentioned. As in De Palma's previous "Greetings," the humor, at its best, is understated but highly structured—so that you have to work a bit for your laughs. But "Hi, Mom!" is much sharper, crueler, funnier. Although it scatters some shots (often in a kind of fast-motion photography that seems an addiction of De Palma's) it pulls enough together to suggest some major insights….

But it is the minor insights that most happily remain: the white black-power activist … who for a second demurs before painting his body entirely black; the pornographic-movie impresario … who wants to make "the first children's exploitation film—nothing dirty, nothing smutty;" or the mere idea of the TV show that chronicles the opening night of "Be Black, Baby!" A production of National Intellectual Television, it is called "N.I.T. Journal," which, (to my mind), comes under the category of what oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.

Roger Greenspun, "'Hi, Mom!'" in The New York Times (© 1970 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 28, 1970 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1969–1970, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1971, p. 158).