Bringing Up Bobby


Twofers, even unwitting ones like Bringing Up Bobby, make you suspicious for a reason. A rollicking car trip—a mother-and-son duo scamming their way across Kansas en route to settling/hiding out in Oklahoma—starts the film. Milla Jovovich (still kicking ass here) is Olive, a recent Ukrainian immigrant—Russian music always on cue—who dotes on her 10-year-old son Bobby (Spencer List); he’s her “little man.” Spouting lines from American movies, committing larceny with the same panache with which she dons a Bonnie and Clyde beret, Olive is as broadly comic as the kid is yappy. But the movie permanently downshifts to moralizing melodrama and retrograde Stella Dallas–like maternal sacrifice when Bobby has an accidental run-in with real estate magnate Kent (Bill Pullman). Another confusion is that the script, by first-time director Famke Janssen, condescends to the heartland, and minor roles collapse to stereotype. Yet Bringing Up Bobby is stylishly shot by Guido van Gennep: Even toilet stalls look painterly. Cleaning johns is one of Olive’s jobs after the law forces her to go straight; Bobby is taken in by Kent and his wife, Mary (Marcia Cross), playing it with kind dignity in grieving for their own (conveniently dead) son. Olive was more fun as a crook, though it can’t hurt to show the crummy work available for the disenfranchised.