Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I am a big fan of independent films. Unlike the blockbuster movies backed by millions of dollars and hoards of special effects, indie films typically have modest budgets that allow them more creative freedom. The layers of character development blossom and the storylines are often daring and bold. They're the movies I want to watch again and again because I uncover something new each time.
When I heard about the new indie film, Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman and Anthony Edwards, I couldn't wait to see it. I am a mom, after all. I wanted to purchase tickets but sadly, it was only in limited release in larger cities. So, after months of anticipation for its arrival to DVD, I was thrilled to recently have the chance to review it!
Eliza Welch (Uma Thurman) is a frazzled, NYC-dwelling mother of two who has traded in her ambitious fiction-writing career for the sippy-cup retrieving, sock-picker-upper life of a stay-at-home mom. Nowadays, the closest thing to writing she has is her blog, "The Bjorn Identity". She feels as though she has lost herself in the mundane details of her daily routine. Her husband Avery (Anthony Edwards) is well-intentioned but oblivious to his wife's dilemmas. Her friend and confidante, Sheila (Minnie Driver), is the only one who seems to understand. When she discovers an essay contest with a grand prize of a $3,000/month column for an upscale parenting magazine, Eliza thinks this is her chance to replenish her passion. All she has to do is write 500 words about what motherhood means to her. Problem is, the entry deadline is midnight and her to-do list, including her daughter's 6th birthday party, is growing more harrowing by the minute. Motherhood follows Eliza through one pivotal day, where her trials and tribulations open her eyes to what truly matters. This bittersweet dramedy is loosely based on the life of writer and director Katherine Dieckmann, acclaimed filmmaker of Diggers and A Good Baby.
Not wanting to spoil the fun with revealing details, I'll just let you view the trailer:
I really wanted to love this movie. I really did. As much as it pains me to say it, I was a little disappointed. I expected a witty, Carrie Bradshaw-sans-Manolos-avec-Bugaboo tale. Instead, I found the ending predictable and ultimately felt disconnected from the characters. I kept waiting for a climax or an event that would grip me but it never happened. If it weren't for the all-star cast, I don't think I would have lasted more than a half hour. I only laughed aloud once during the whole movie and that was due to Minnie Driver's refreshing turn as Eliza's frank, no-holds-barred ally, Sheila.
I felt that the film simply tried too hard to be prolific and clever. I found most of the humor to be more contrived than earnest. The snobby carpool mom. The playground politics. The cute delivery boy who pays Eliza a much-needed compliment or two. The hurried city life and lack of parking. The debilitated neighbor. The petty argument with her closest friend. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that leads to a breakdown. It all seemed like too much territory to cover in 94 minutes. Instead of exposing our secret truths and shedding light on the darker side of motherhood, it merely scratched the surface on the numerous issues we face each day.
That being said, there were some brief, heartwarming moments that redeemed the film somewhat for me. In the beginning of the movie, Eliza awakens at dawn to sneek a photo of her daughter on her last day as a five-year old. Totally something I would do. In another scene, while she is cleaning up, she unscrews the top of a sippy cup, performs a quick sniff check and drinks the remaining liquid. Yeah, I've done that. In yet another scene, while she is brainstorming for her article, she looks over at her toddler son who is playing and he waves to her. The look between them - one of unconditional love - gave me the warm fuzzies.
There were times I could feel for Eliza, as she struggled to carry her toddler in a bulky back carrier and walk the family dog. Or as she talked about how her daughter was six today but would be eighteen tomorrow. Or how she confessed to her husband that she could hardly recognize herself anymore. As a mom blogger myself, I could relate to her fight to find the right words. She was likeable, even if she did annoy me or come across as whiny at times. (Knowingly leaving your toddler unbuckled in his car seat? Fleeing to New Jersey on a whim? Do parents really do this?)
Eliza's struggle to balance her responsibilities with her needs and desires is a universal one. We've all experienced mommy guilt at some point or another when we fall short of our unrealistic expectations. We all wonder if we're making the best decisions for our family's sake. It's just a day in the life of a mama. And while the film left me wanting more, I could nod along in agreement. The eternal challenge of multi-tasking and the pursuit of passion lies at the heart of Motherhood.
Report Card: C+
BUY IT: You can now purchase Motherhood on DVD and Blu-Ray at most movie retailers and via Amazon.com (ARV $12.99).
WIN IT: One lucky reader is going to win a copy of the Motherhood DVD!
MAIN COURSE (MANDATORY ENTRY): Eliza had to answer it so now I ask you: what does motherhood mean to you? Remember to please leave your email address in your comment if it isn't visible on your profile to prevent disqualification!
SUGAR ON TOP (BONUS ENTRIES): To maximize your chances of winning, you may do any or all of the following. Be sure to complete the above mandatory entry or your bonus entries will not count!
1.) Follow my blog and/or subscribe via reader or email. Comment telling me which method you chose. If you already follow or subscribe, that counts! (1 entry each)
2.) Follow me and @MotherhoodFilm on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway. You can do this daily! You may use the following tweet or come up with one of your own:
RT @kris10chumley: Win a copy of the @MotherhoodFilm on DVD featuring Uma Thurman! Ends 3/10 http://bit.ly/9QgF7K
Just leave a comment with your tweet link. (1 entry per day max)
3.) Add my button to your site and comment with a link where I can find it. (1 entry)
Giveaway will end on March 10, 2010 at 11:59pm EST. Open to US only. Winner will be chosen via Random.org and will have 48 hours to respond to congratulatory email or prize will be forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this DVD from Beth at Sugar Mountain P.R. to facilitate an honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely mine. Your experience may differ.