“I’d like to say hello to my mother, if you don’t mind.”
When an aspiring filmmaker (Robert De Niro) convinces a producer (Allen Garfield) to hire him to take peeping-tom videos in apartments across the street, he ends up getting to know one of the women (Jennifer Salt) he’s been spying on, and they start an unusual dating relationship; meanwhile, De Niro is hired to play a cop in an immersive theater experience known as “Be Black Baby”.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Allen Garfield Films
- Black Comedy
- Brian De Palma Films
- Movie Directors
- New York City
- Peeping Toms
- Racism and Race Relations
- Robert De Niro Films
Brian De Palma’s direct follow-up to the success of Greetings (1968) was this humorous continuation of the adventures of veteran Jon Rubin (De Niro), the peeping-tom filmmaker from Greetings. As the movie opens, Jon is filming a tour of the truly decrepit apartment being shown to him by a manipulative, sourpuss super (Charles Durning):
We next see Jon re-engaging with the “smut peddler” (Allen Garfield) from Greetings:
… who produces adult films and is begrudgingly willing to give Jon a chance once he hears about his plan to violate the privacy of countless apartment dwellers by filming them. (A quick note here that all concern with ethics must be set aside while watching this film in order to go with the flow of its dark humor.) Jon’s crafty, deceptive “pick up” of a young woman (Salt) — with detailed plans to carefully “trap” her into performing on camera for/with him later — goes hilariously sideways, giving Jon a much-needed taste of humility.
Meanwhile, the extended sub-plot about a Black theater troupe attempting to provide white participants with an authentic taste of what it’s like to “Be Black Baby” in America is surprisingly hard-hitting (albeit hard to watch at times).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Robert De Niro as Jon
- Jennifer Salt as Judy
- De Palma’s creative riff on Rear Window
- The bold “Be Black Baby” sequence
No, but of course De Palma and/or De Niro fans will want to check it out. Listed as a Cult Movie and a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.
One thought on “Hi, Mom! (1970)”
First (full) viewing. Not must-see; only for De Palma completists.
I’d attempted a viewing once before, years ago, and gave up early. Having now seen it through, I’m not surprised that I bailed the first time.
Those familiar with De Palma will recognize the ultimate tone of this early exercise in manipulation. What starts out as more-or-less a comical outing (some of which is genuinely very funny; showing a positive streak that De Palma would pretty much abandon after ‘Carrie’) slowly segues into what amounts to a cold-cock for the second-half.
De Palma’s social commentary stance is disingenuous. Any possible good intention notwithstanding, the relentless “Be Black Baby” sequence operates on the assumption that *all* white people (even those who subscribe to progressive thought) are racist. Had he chosen a different strategy, that portion of the film wouldn’t reach the point where it’s nothing but pointlessly cruel.
Putting that section into the context of the overall film – and considering that the film’s ending reveals the De Niro character to be certifiable – it’s likely that De Palma is being rather consistent with a dim view of humanity in general. Unless, of course, he’s just having a goof (which is possible but not admirable).