Writer-director Katherine Dieckmann’s new indie film, Motherhood, has the look and feel of an extended episode of Sex in the City, if Carrie Bradshaw settled down in an old apartment overrun with books and toys and she wrote a parenting blog instead of a column for one of the New York papers.
Uma Thurman stars as Eliza, a harried mother of two who spends the film preparing for her daughter’s 6th birthday. Her long to do list includes: buying a new dress; taking her son to the park; moving the car; purchasing the cake, goodie bags and all of the food for the party (using her bicycle as transportation); and making regular updates on her parenting blog, “The Bjorn Identity” (cute name). Added to her list is an contest essay she’s trying to write in hopes of becoming a paid journalist for a mothering magazine.
Eliza is married to a scatter brained, compassionate man played by the ever reliable Anthony Edwards. He works as an editor for a travel magazine, a job he only took to ensure that the family has health benefits. He also collects old books in hopes of someday running a website that sells them. Eliza’s best friend, Sheila, is a pregnant, nearly divorced woman played by Minnie Driver. They have the type of relationship that depends on brutal honesty. When Eliza reveals intimate details of what Sheila did in the bathtub with one of her son’s vibrating submarine toys, Sheila nearly loses it. Fortunately all is worked out by the end.
There is one other star in this film and that is Manhattan. There are plenty of nice shots showing the small neighborhoods and brownstones where people have lived for generations and new families are trying their best to raise their children without them turning into freaks. Deickmann doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the people in New York. Almost everyone is rude and has bone to pick. It made me reluctant to take my friend, Robert Cashill up on his offer to visit NYC.
The best part of Motherhood, and the real reason to watch it, is the great Thurman. She throws herself into the role, performing with as much gusto as she had in the Kill Bill films. She easily carries the film her back with a funny, sincere performance, the type of performance that usually gets noticed at awards season. Unfortunately Motherhood’s limited theatrical release kept most people from seeing the film.
What also hurt Motherhood’s chances of getting noticed was that it never really gels as a complete film. As much as I enjoyed the acting and the Dieckmann’s writing, everything about the movie from the episodic nature of the story to the numerous montages, to even the shot composures, felt like Motherhood was an extended television pilot instead of a motion picture.
Actually, Motherhood would have made a great TV show, especially if they scored Thurman, Edwards and Driver to star in it. Taken in increments, Motherhood is charming, funny and heartfelt. Taken as a whole, that is a 90 minute film, Motherhood is moderately entertaining, moderately funny and only moderately good.
purchase from Amazon: DVD