After daring to utter a four letter word in Two Of A Kind Olivia took a break from filming, got married and had Chloe. She waited 7 years for her next movie A Mom For Christmas which was more in keeping with her new lifestyle. Not a swear word was in sight in this 1990 Disney made-for-TV movie. Olivia positively welcomed the slowing down of her career since the birth of Chloe, but being encouraged by her success at the Mothers & Others concert just a week earlier, she decided to take this movie. Moreover, this time she wanted a film that her 5 year Chloe could watch and enjoy.
The story revolves around 11 year old Jessica without a mother and whose father is a workaholic with little time for his daughter. Just before the Christmas holiday season Jessica is granted a wish to have a mom until midnight Christmas Eve. Olivia, a shop mannequin called Amy, becomes Jessica's mother and the plot focuses on their adventures and growing relationship. Whilst having Cinderella and Mary Poppins overtones (note the umbrella as Olivia returns on Christmas Eve) the story is original family fun. Olivia does make a rather good mannequin. Her remarks on the wonder of being human and not stuck in a shop are amusing "nice house, no muzak" and "when you sit down everything wrinkles". Jessica's father however doesn't know that the new housekeeper is a mannequin and you can't help but wonder at his intelligence in letting such a seemingly strange woman stay in his house and look after his child! But one has to suspend belief , this is Disney after all.
Whilst being primarily a kid's movie there are of course adult themes running throughout the film. Jessica's dad, since the death of his wife 8 years ago, has stopped really paying attention to Jessica and no photos have been taken since she was 3. However, we never doubt that her father loves Jessica even though he's still grieving his wife. Amy with her love of life "it's scary, messy, absolutely unbeatable" lives in the present moment (very much like Olivia's outlook on life today) and manages to close the gap between father and daughter. Amy in her turn learns much from Jessica - initially getting all her knowledge from books, reading Jessica's private diary and not knowing how to express her feelings.
Inevitably Amy and the father fall in love, despite having spent very little time together, but Amy's reactions on receiving her first kiss are a joy: Olivia's lovely wide eyes full of amazement. Of course there is a happy ending proving that love wins out in the end. From a sociological perspective the film could be criticised as giving the impression that you can't have a truly happy, healthy family without both a mother and father and of course the complexity of emotions are glossed over but this is Disney and fun, rather than political-correctness, is its strong point.
As part of the promotion "A Mom For Christmas Electronic Press Kit" was also featured on US TV. This consisted of clips from the film, behind the scenes filming and most interestingly interviews with the cast. The actual film crew consisted of a lot of Australians so Olivia felt at home on the set with vegemite and Australian newspapers. However, the film had to take on the American vocabulary; it had to be called "Mom" rather the nicer sounding "mummy" In America mummy exclusively means bandages and Egyptians! In Britain and Australia mummy is mother.
The Australian Director, George Miller, speaks highly of Olivia's performance. He was most impressed with Olivia's ability to cry on cue and he was left speechless when Olivia did it perfectly first take. Miller believes that motherhood has had "a profound effect on her [Olivia's] personality" giving her a greater depth, something which Olivia herself agrees with. He also describes her as "one of the great smiles of the twentieth century" and during the film he certainly makes good use of this. It's also Doug Sheehan's (the father) first Disney movie, his main decision to make the film was Disney's reputation and because it's the "heritage of my generation". He had this to say about his co-star "It'd be un-American not to be attracted to Olivia Newton-John, are you kidding me? I mean I can only put it this way - have you ever been mellow?"
Olivia and Juliet Sorcey(Jessica) claim to have had a special relationship on set. Olivia tells how Juliet's performance could move her to tears They also claimed that they are like real-life daughter and mother with Juliet even playing with Chloe despite the 6 year age difference. Describing her love of acting Juliet says: "To me it's not work you know, it's just having fun and doing what I liked to do and enjoying it and so in that way it is kinda like a glamorous life." Juliet also says she'd like the film to be a classic, another "Miracle on 34th Street".
A classic it may not be but for fans of Olivia the movie is a must! It even features two John Farrar songs sung by Olivia and not available on CD or vinyl - "What If" and "Sea Of Pain" both are excellent. The lyrics of What If are guaranteed to fill you with optimism. Olivia also gets to wear her clothes from Koala Blue, although in my opinion the dropped-waist dresses etc. don't always suit Olivia's petite frame. Jessica can be spotted sporting a Koala Blue night-shirt.
A home video of the movie was also produced for the UK market on Buena Vista (D140822) but it was only available for a short period of time and now this official video is very rare. However, fans will be relieved to hear that the movie is shown regularly in Europe, Australia and the USA at Christmas time.
So whilst the film may not go down in the history books the director has high hopes for its message: "Families are precious and the time that a family has together is precious because we've shown what a family is like when it's broken up and if this film even goes part of the way to make people stop and think about how precious their relationships are within a family then I will have succeeded."
Review by Helen, taken from Only Olivia newsletterpage top