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3 reviews, 1 rating

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Mommie Dreariest"
1 stars

“Motherhood” is a film about the ups and downs of contemporary parenthood as seen through the eyes of a woman so irritating, narcissistic, classist and generally unlikable that it is astonishing that anyone could possibly stand being in her company long enough to complete the necessary steps required for reproduction. The problem with that particular approach is that instead of criticizing her for possessing these thoroughly disagreeable qualities (and many more besides), the film actually wants us to embrace her painfully solipsistic point-of-view as some kind of funny and poignant meditation on modern motherhood. . To put it mildly, it completely fails in that regard and as a witty and wise take on that particular subject, it ranks somewhat below the likes of “Mother’s Day,” “Mother of Tears” and the immortal “Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?”

It stars Uma Thurman as Eliza, a stressed-out wife and mother who is handed the chance to revive her long-deferred career as a writer, currently relegated to blogging allegedly pithy musing about modern motherhood that would make Erma Bombeck roll over in her grave, when she learns of a contest to write 500 words on the meaning of being a mom with the grand prize being a monthly magazine column. Unfortunately, her entry is due at midnight and over the course of one long and overbooked Manhattan day, she tries to do her regular errands, plan and stage her daughter’s sixth birthday party, deal with the complications caused by a local film crew that is screwing up the neighborhood, maintain relationships with her slack wit husband (Anthony Edwards) and whiny best pal (Minnie Driver) and flirt with an Indian messenger whom she invites into her apartment in a scene that is meant to be poignant but which only turns out to be kind of creepy and unpleasant. Then again, the scene does feature her rocking out to an old Pylon CD in the one scene that actually provides some entertainment value for as long as the music is on.

The film is so terrible in so many ways, big and small, that it impossible to even know where to start, except to speculate as to how anyone involved with the project could have possibly deluded themselves into thinking that it was in any shape to go before the cameras. The screenplay is a poorly strung together collection of vignettes that spring more from sitcom contrivance than from any basis in reality--even such minor details as the conceit that a film crew would appear completely unannounced on a Friday morning to shut down an entire street and have all the cars towed away in order to shoot scenes from a period film seem more like an elaborate excuse to separate Eliza from her car when its absence is necessary for the plot than anything else (a sense bolstered by the fact that the car magically reappears the minute it is once again needed). The characters traipse through an ethnically cleansed version of Manhattan that, save for that hunky Indian guy (who I guess slipped in on the basis that everyone loves “Slumdog Millionaire”) is utterly bereft of any minorities, though it does make room for a self-serving cameo by Jodie Foster. And while I am a huge admirer of Uma Thurman, she couldn’t be more miscast here if she tried; her attempts to frump herself up don’t come close to hiding her regal beauty and her lack of any inherent comedic chops--she tends to be funny only when she has strong material to work with--helps grind scene after scene to a halt.

However, the biggest problem is the fact that our heroine is perhaps the least inspiring mother figure to grace the big screen since the one played by Ashley Judd in that “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” nonsense. As she flits about from one uninteresting misadventure to another, it becomes painfully clear that, despite her protestations to the contrary, she is a lousy writer, a terrible mother (when things go hinky at one point, she blithely decided to abandon everything and flee to New Jersey) and has absolutely no time management skills--many of her problems on this particular day might have been solved if she didn’t waste time flirting with the messenger, didn’t spend her time attending sample sales with her pals while bemoaning her lack of time to do things for herself and didn’t wait until the actual day of her child’s birthday to begin planning, shopping and decorating for the party that afternoon. Now if the film chose to skewer such blinkered thinking and have Eliza emerge with a new perspective on the meaning of motherhood as a result, “Motherhood” might have worked but not only does that not happen, writer-director Katherine Dieckmann (whose previous film was the not-uninteresting “Diggers”) instead seems to be celebrating her heroine’s misbehavior by depicting it in a tone so smug and condescending that I cannot imagine any real mother in the audience (or anyone else for that matter) feeling even the slightest shred of sympathy for her or her upper-middle-class ennui.

“Motherhood” may not be the single worst film of 2009--though I can’t think of another one that might better qualify for the title--but it is pretty much hands-down the most infuriating. This is a piece of work that is so bad, so incoherent, so smug, so hateful and so completely at odds with anything resembling actual human behavior or emotions that I am not surprised to see that noted contrarian Armond White is raving about it as this generation’s “Up the Sandbox.” In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that if it is by far the single most relentlessly unappealing film appearing at your local multiplex this weekend and bear in mind, I have seen “Antichrist” and “Couples Retreat.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18248&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/23/09 00:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2009 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/01/10 Lacey M A realistic movie that a lot of mothers can relate to. I enjoyed it. 3 stars
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  23-Oct-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Feb-2010


  DVD: 23-Feb-2010

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Katherine Dieckmann

Written by
  Katherine Dieckmann

  Uma Thurman
  Minnie Driver
  Anthony Edwards

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