‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new film Mother’s Day is one of those Garry Marshall films celebrating a holiday. It follows the pattern of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve with one major difference: It is simply not funny. Even the sentiment is somewhat sour. No one is happy, and the resolutions of at least some of the problems seem forced and trite.
It is a typical Marshall movie in that there are many well-known performers going through an interwoven plot in a series of stories. Most are easily identifiable types, and that weakens the whole plot. We know most of the performers, so we can relax and relate, but, unfortunately, they are not nearly as sympathetic as they might be because they are so stereotyped.
The large cast focuses on relationships with parents, as you might expect. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is divorced and really wants to get back together with Henry (Timothy Olyphant), who has married Tina (Shay Mitchell), far younger and able to interact better with her teen daughter. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a widower with kids who lost his wife (Jennifer Garner) in Iraq and obsesses over a video she made there. Miranda (Julia Roberts) is a hard-driving writer and businesswoman. We have Kristin (Britt Robertson), having doubts about an upcoming marriage because she is not certain of her identity, having been adopted.
We also see sisters Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) who have moved across the country to ensure that their uptight parents Flo and Earl (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine) do not find out that one has married an Indian and the other a woman. Of course, just in time for Mother’s Day, the folks make a surprise visit and behave exactly the way a stereotype would have them.
The characters look like they are going through their paces on the last year of a bad situation comedy. Would people move across the country so their parents would not learn what they are doing? And while parents and children can certainly alienate each other, would they do it quite as casually and nastily as is done here? We can also note that a woman hoping for a return by her ex-husband might just give up once he marries someone else.
One of the things I liked best in the first and the best of the holiday films, Valentine’s Day, was that there were so many unexpected twists and turns. Here it looks like a group of people came together for a weekend, tossed out a few ideas, and never really thought about a plot.
The holiday itself, of course, is self-limiting. There were many different kinds of love in the first film and some changes in plots in the second. Here things are just focused on parental relations. I am second to no one in my appreciation of mothers. I adored my own mother, and one of my favorite things was (and still is) watching the very special relationship between my wife and our daughter Erica. The clear love and attachment has gone well beyond her childhood. We can see it in her relationship with our grandson Alex. There was almost none of that kind of love visible in the film.
The actors were clearly just going through the motions. Performers like these movies. They are only in the film for a short time, get to work with a few other top professionals, and do not get any blame if the movie goes nowhere. However, the bad script does not allow any complex acting. By the end, I felt most of them deserved some congratulations for not looking miserable, although a couple did look like they were just going through the motions.
I have always liked Garry Marshall. We attended the same high school (DeWitt Clinton in The Bronx), although he was enough years older that we never met at that time. I generally like his movies, which tend to be funny and genial. But this movie goes nowhere.
We are just about at the end of our season of discontent. Next week, we get the first of the big summer movies, the new Captain America. In the meantime, basically just ignore most of what is out.
With luck, Mr. Marshall has run out of holidays. Save your money. There are better movies on the way.