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Predictable, Obvious, Banal
by Mel Valentin on Oct 22, 2009
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Everything about Motherhood, Katherine Dieckmann’s (Diggers, A Good Baby) comedy about a day-in-the-life of a Manhattan-based, stay-at-home mom, is painfully predictable, painfully obvious, and painfully banal. Despite situational humor tied to the central character’s personal problems and dilemmas, Dieckmann fails to say anything profound or insightful about motherhood. Not even a slightly de-glamorized Uma Thurman can elevate Motherhood from the inherent limitations of its day-in-the-life premise or the trite, unsatisfactory conclusions.
Eliza Welsh (Uma Thurman), is a former fiction writer turned harried stay-at-home mom. Thanks to her husband Avery’s (Anthony Edwards, wasted) steady income, but more importantly a rent-stabilized West Village apartment, Eliza can devote her energy and time to her children, Clara (Daisy Tahan) and Lucas (David/ Matthew Schallipp), and her husband, usually in that order. Eliza’s life is filled with seemingly endless chores and errands. She also has to plan and organize Clara’s 6th birthday party, keep Lucas occupied, catch up with her pregnant best friend, Sheila (Minnie Driver, actually pregnant at the time Motherhood was shot), and squeeze in a few minutes to work on her motherhood-centered blog, “The Bjorn Identity".
A minor ripple in Eliza’s frantic domestic life literally pops up (as in a pop-up ad on her MacBook) with the potential for financial and professional rewards: an essay contest for a parenting magazine, Lunchbox. Eliza has to write a 500-word essay on what motherhood means to her and until midnight to submit the essay. The essay comes with a cash award, publication, and the promise of steady work for the winner. Other complications include an annoying French neighbor, Sandrine Dumas (Stephanie Szostak), street cleaning-related parking roulette, a film crew setting up outside Eliza’s apartment, an inadvertent disclosure of personal information on her blog, and a 20-something bike messenger and self-described struggling writer, Nakish (Arjun Gupta), who openly flirts with the flattered Eliza.
With the exception of the essay contest’s deadline, the complications for Eliza, and therefore the audience, are insignificant. She makes a few slip-ups, most of them minor, runs around frantically to gather party favors, and has a mini-nervous breakdown before her daughter’s birthday party. She questions the choices she’s made, specifically the creative life vs. domestic life tradeoff, but it’s nothing she wouldn’t have asked herself at a different time. Everyone else is a minor player in her (self-perceived) major drama, especially her husband, Avery, who, as written by Dieckmann, is a bland, lifeless character.
On a more positive note, Dieckmann doesn’t push Motherhood’s flimsy premise beyond the 90-minute mark, resolving all but one question (which remains open) before moviegoers notice the superficial storyline and characters. A sub-90-minute running time, of course, doesn’t make Motherhood any more viable as a theatrical experience. Motherhood is best experienced on DVD (rental, not purchase) or on basic cable (and that’s primarily for Uma Thurman fans).
by Mel Valentin on Oct 22, 2009