A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Big Business is a 1988 comedy of mistaken identities featuring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin as two sets of identical twins separated at birth. One mismatched set of twins is raised in wealth in New York City and the other by a loving working-class couple in the countryside, but the four are reunited by a corporate deal that affects them all. Although the movie sinks to many stereotypes, at its heart it is about values: people over greed, doing the right thing over profit. Language includes "hell," "damn," "balls," and "ass." Adults drink alcohol. There's some sexual innuendo, and one couple is seen briefly in bed together, presumably after sex.
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What's the story?
In BIG BUSINESS, two sets of identical twins are born in a rural hospital, one to local parents and the other to city slickers from New York. The plot takes up when the twins, mismatched by an overworked nurse, are all gearing up for battle. The pairs, named Sadie (Bette Midler) and Rose (Lily Tomlin) and Sadie and Rose, find themselves on opposite sides of a corporate struggle. The city-raised twins inherited their father's corporate monolith, Moramax, which owns the factory town where all four were all born. City Sadie, greedy and profit-oriented, wants to unload that furniture factory, putting 500 citizens out of work and laying the land bare to strip-mining. Rose, although a Moramax VP, feels an inexplicable longing for country living, gardens, and goats, and vainly tries to fight her sister. Country Rose, the factory foreman, arrives with sister Sadie in New York to protest the sale at Moramax's Plaza Hotel board meeting. A farce of mistaken identity, a confused ex-husband, and equally confused suitors ensues.
Is it any good?
This movie promotes a built-in bias that might infuriate some viewers, with multiple clichés about "hicks" and "hayseeds" and their presumed lack of sophistication and intelligence. But Big Business also takes potshots at corporate greed. City Sadie bonds romantically with a suave Italian mogul over the best way to launder money. Perhaps the happy ending, in which decency prevails over greed, is the film's apology for the more condescending stereotypes, ultimately casting the "hicks" as plenty savvy, and admiring their values above those of the money-obsessed city folks.
Midler and Tomlin turn in adroit comic performances, just this side of over-the-top. The supporting cast is great, including Fred Ward and Michele Placido as two ardent suitors. Watch for a classic comic bit, ripped from a 1930s Marx Brothers setup in Duck Soup, in which the twins discover their other halves by way of a mirror.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Big Business's plausibility factor. Do you enjoy all the errors and coincidences required to make the plot work, or do they get in the way?
How does the plot suggest a belief in nature vs. nurture and the importance of genetics? Why do you think the two women born to the rural couple long for the beauty of nature, while the two born to city parents long for the hectic and exciting cosmopolitan life?
Did you find the ending satisfying? What does it say about the possibility for people to change?
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