NEM // 2009 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // March 10th, 2010
There are no timeouts in motherhood.
Sometimes, I wish there were timeouts in filmmaking, because Katherine Dieckmann's comedy Motherhood is undoubtedly one of the most unnecessary films I've seen in a long time. I wouldn't go as far as calling it an utterly painful disaster, but in my book, this simplistic tale of a mother struggling to survive a stressful day completely fails to make a valuable statement. It's a movie about nothing, really...
Uma Thurman returns to the screen as Eliza Welsh, a busy mother of two who wakes up one day and realizes it will be a whole lot busier than usual. Not only does she have to deal with the everyday routines of a stay-at-home mom, but today, she also has to plan her daughter's sixth birthday party. On top of that, Eliza really tries to enter an online contest by writing a five-hundred-word essay about what motherhood really means to her, but with everything that's going on around her, she's not quite sure she'll make the deadline.
To be honest, I prefer watching Uma Thurman run around slashing bad guys with swords and stuff. She doesn't seem to be able to flourish in comedies like this one, and I wish Uma had stayed far away from Motherhood, a flat, uninspiring little film that spends 90 minutes showing viewers how stressful a mother's life can be when everything goes wrong and she doesn't have anyone to help her. I'm sure motherhood in real life is incredibly exhausting at times, but the way it's depicted in Dieckmann's film is both over-the-top and often quite ridiculous.
Thurman's character Eliza is portrayed as an overly clumsy mother who forgets to take off her nightgown before she leaves the house and totally fails to stay organized even though she creates this massive to-do list before she goes to bed. What really crushes the film's credibility is the fact that Eliza spends the whole movie complaining about random things she could easily deal with in other ways. I mean, is it really funny to watch a mother stressing out over everything she has to accomplish because she can't find a parking spot right outside her apartment? Of course it isn't, but that's exactly what viewers will have to deal with in Motherhood.
Dieckmann's attempts at creating a likeable character we should all feel sorry for fails miserably. Yes, I admit watching Thurman run around like crazy really started to stress me out after a while, but eventually, all I wanted to do is punch her. The entire movie is structured around her finding a way to properly express what motherhood really means to her by the end of the day, and while I always enjoy watching a film about a character looking for an answer to something, the conclusion we're left with in Motherhood is as clichéd and dull as it could be.
Dieckmann's film is sold as a comedy, but sadly enough, it really isn't that funny. Thurman doesn't have anything solid enough to work with here, and her rather sloppy performance suggest she desperately tried to come across as hilarious. Alas, she comes across as more annoying than funny every time she speaks, and it really doesn't help she's dressed like an old spinster. The development of her character lacks innovation as well, and what we're left with is a banal story about a mother who has a passion for writing but never got a chance to pursue it because raising her kids sucked out all her time and energy.
Motherhood also stars Anthony Edwards as Eliza's husband, a writer who collected old books because he believes they could sell for a lot of money online. Of course, he's the kind of husband who can't take on any responsibilities, even though we don't see him do anything worth praising in the film. His character is as flawed and boring as Thurman's, and watching them run their chaotic household hurts more than it amuses. His performance is average, at best. Also on board as Eliza's pregnant friend is Minnie Driver, whose performance is both static and utterly forgettable.
The DVD of Motherhood boasts a solid 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, and I really can't complain about the solid quality of the image, which looks clean and sharp throughout. On a similar note, the audio transfer works surprisingly well.
In terms of special features, this disc offers viewers five short interviews with the main cast and director Dieckmann, who chat about their characters in the movie and how the cast came together. To tell you the truth, some of what we get to hear here is more intriguing than most of the dialogue in the feature. Also included is an audio commentary with Dieckmann and producer Rachel Cohen, who talk about how the film came together and how they ended up shooting it. It's not the most energetic commentary out there, but it should satisfy those wanting to learn more about what it takes to get such a project going.
This is a forgettable experience I simply can't recommend. The payoff viewers get at the end simply doesn't do the trick, and to be honest, we really don't need a movie to tell us that simply seizing the day is the best way to deal with stress, or in this case, raise children. Formulaic and simplistic at best, Motherhood only deserves to be grounded.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Official Site