Universal // 2006 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Rafael Gamboa (Retired) // May 21st, 2007
"She's just your normal, overprotective, overbearing, over-the-top mother."
No. No, she's not. She's far from normal; she's the Antichrist.
This is not a romantic comedy. The back of the innocuously white box may say it is, tossing about such phrases as "heartwarming comedy" to describe this harrowing tale of a despotic Orwellian nightmare of a mother (Diane Keaton, Annie Hall), her three slaves ("free-spirited daughters"), and their struggle to liberate themselves from filial oppression. Two of the daughters (Lauren Graham, Bad Santa, and Piper Perabo, The Prestige) have escaped the smothering clutches of their mother by selling their autonomy to the patriarchy and getting married, instead of succumbing to mother Daphne's will and becoming her spiritual clones (and, as such, vehicles for her vicarious atonement for her poor life decisions regarding men). The third daughter, the unfortunate Millie (Mandy Moore, Saved!), remains single, and is Daphne's psychotic last hope for attaining romantic absolution. This film chronicles Millie's heroic struggle to preserve her identity in the face of Daphne's relentless cannibalistic drive to devour her daughter's individuality, hoping to repair her past by marrying the perfect man through Millie's emptied husk of a body. Will Millie choose the man she loves, saving herself by surrendering to the will of the patriarchy? Or will she choose the man her mother would love, losing herself to the engulfing will of the matriarchy?
Heartwarming? Romantic comedy? Nay, fellow filmgoers, nay! This is a horror film of ghastly implications, presenting us with that most monstrous of abominations: a mother who so loves her offspring that she cannot resist the impulse to destroy them. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a Lifetime Original movie in big budget form, my hapless readers! Why? Because I said so! Damn the clichéd story arc, the cheesy music, the poppy editing, and the milquetoast men! Damn the awkward attempts at slapstick levity and tongue-in-cheek hip-wit dialogue! Damn the Hallmark faux sentimentality! Damn them all, and the prepackaged montages they came in! Why? Because I said so! For I, in my judicial perspicacity, can pierce the veils of mediocrity that cling to this film like the sheep's skin on the wolf! I alone can see this film for what it truly is: a gut-wrenching denial of self-essentialism that lays bare our inescapable servitude to the two great institutions of humanity, Family and Society.
Daphne Wilder represents the fulcrum of this slavish seesaw: motherhood. For mothers are the ones who rear us, and in rearing us they weave the dense web of chains that tether us inseparably to their person and to the societal norms that restrict our every thought and action. Why? Because I said so! Mothers are responsible for the erosion of our individuality, and Daphne is the embodiment of this in the extreme, wishing to replace the self of another with her own. As omnipresent as Big Brother himself, Mrs. Keaton inundates the screen. Insectoid in her constant weaving in and out of personal space and her stubborn refusal to leave Millie and the audience alone, she also reacts with the speed and grace of a drunk moth whenever anything remotely startling happens, flopping hideously and repeatedly over any upholstery that has the misfortune of being in her way. The worst of these moments are invariably whenever Daphne comes across anything that runs on electricity and has buttons. It's remarkable, for instance, how she can operate a web browser and type quite competently until she opens a porn site. Once that happens, she seems to forget entirely what a computer is, and begins to frantically mash the keyboard and whack the mouse like a retarded, dangerous, and vile ape. She's not just a fluttering visual pest, either. She proves to be quite adept at making herself an auditory nightmare as well, with her sputtered, stuttered, and occasionally mewling attempts at communication made worse by how often they overlap her three daughters' simultaneous verbal torrents. Diane Keaton crafts a character so utterly despicable, so monstrously abhorrent in her obnoxious blubbering oppressiveness, that it caused me to experience a moment of profound clarity. More on that later, because I said so.
In the opposite corner, we have Millie Wilder, the gorgeous single girl whose inherited talkative nature somehow manages to be endearing and even attractive, though I have a strong suspicion this is related to the fact that Mandy Moore happens to be criminally cute. Millie finds herself trapped between the rock of her mother and the hard place of patriarchal conceptions of monogamy. She cannot be allowed to enjoy dating two men at once, she must be manipulated and coerced into choosing one above the other. In her bubbling persona, we can see the simple and innocent beauty of humanity's natural hedonism; we see it as it is curtailed and eventually destroyed. It is a tragedy, and this film attempts to portray that ending as a happy one! Yes, all the women get their own man, just as they do in every RomCom ever made, but this attempt to disguise itself as yet another assembly-line piece of mediocrity does not fool me. It is an ending with spine-tingling implications. Who says we must adhere to binary heterosexual relations? Who says we cannot indulge in polyamorous ventures, according to our own comfort? Who says, who says, who says!?
The answer: mothers say, because Because I Said So says so. Diane Keaton's bone-chilling performance has enlightened me like a heavenly shaft of light piercing the thin membranes of my mental cloud cover. My revelation: Daphne represents the Great Adversary. Daphne is the Antichrist, the Anti-Buddha, the Anti-Lao Tzu, the Anti-Neo. When a young child pushes a cake ear-deep into Daphne's face, in that cathartic moment lies the key to our salvation. For I am the child, as yet unfettered by Daphne. I yet stand free, and individual. Only I can push the cake into the face of my mother, and all mothers worldwide, with the fist of my carefree innocence. They must all choke on my icy frosting. Cake or death? Nay; cake is death! Do you hear me, matriarchy!? Hark, loathsome creatures! For I am your bane, arising like a phoenix from your cowed crowd of offspring! I shall purge you and save my selfness from thralldom!
FOR THOSE LACKING A SENSE OF HUMOR:
I will put the bombast on pause for a moment. This movie is quite lame. Predictable from beginning to end, its only saving grace is the dialogue, which, when it isn't trudging through an obligatory sentimental scene or an ill-advised attempt at slapstick, actually has a few moments of wit and freshness. If you enjoy romantic comedies, then you'll probably like this one, since it is just like all the others, complete with hackneyed (and lengthy!) montages. But even so, I find it hard to believe that anyone will enjoy any aspect of Diane Keaton's performance. The most bearable moments in the flick for me were the times when she got her comeuppance, which were despairingly few and far between. Oh, and not to forget the blessed span of time in which her character lost her voice. Oh, how my ears rejoiced! Plus, Mandy Moore is pretty. I don't care what you think of her as an artist or a person, but you cannot deny that she makes this movie infinitely easier on the eyes.
There's nothing wrong with the DVD itself, except for the minor issue of it playing theatrical trailers before getting to the menu and the major issue of the film existing in the first place. It has a few behind-the-scenes featurettes which are decent. It's always interesting to see what kind of work and thought went into a movie so blandly forgettable. Oh, and it has an ad for iVillage as a special feature, for some perplexing reason.
Perhaps I'm being so harsh because I happened to watch Wong Kar Wai's 2046 the night before, which makes the experience of watching something as unoriginal and childish in its exploration of love so much more unpleasant for a pretentious film nerd like myself. I will say something in favor of this movie, though, and it is something I feel most people forget when watching a not-so-great movie, including myself. Most movies that are mediocre or bad tend to be so because the script is weak or the director cannot put the pieces together in a way that works, or both. Often times those elements in a film that are truly the products of talent go entirely unnoticed because these major features overshadow everything else. One of those elements that is constantly under-appreciated is production design, and this movie certainly had stellar art direction. Costumes, sets, and props were all crafted with meticulous attention to detail, character, and unifying consistency. The polka dot theme, for instance, is really cleverly incorporated into many aspects of the film.
However, there is a reason production design is often ignored in evaluating a movie. This is because production design will never, ever save a film from being awful. It certainly didn't save this one.
Moment of candor concluded. On with the war cry!
Through the abomination that is Daphne Wilder, this film has exposed the greatest threat to our autonomy, and that threat's name is Mommy! I declare our ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing parental conditions. Let the matriarchy tremble at an offspring's revolution. The children have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
CHILDREN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!
I do not simply sentence this film, I condemn it and all it stands for! May it wither in the forgotten rentals section of your local movie store! Mediocrity, fear the bellowing thunderclap of my gavel! Why? Because I said so!
Review content copyright © 2007 Rafael Gamboa; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* The Making of Because I Said So
* Designing a "Wilder" World
* iVillage Pregnancy Ad
* "World Spins Madly On" Music Video by The Weepies
* Official Site