Thank god for my rhetorical questions this week. Not sure I could have kept track of the storylines in Mother’s Day without my undivided attention on the necessary details. I use the word “necessary” ironically of course. Let’s dive in.
What?! Not everyone in Atlanta is ready to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) just found out her ex-husband eloped with a 20-something hottie. Jesse (Kate Hudson) is surprised by a visit from her estranged, xenophobic Mom. Kristen (Britt Robertson) is trying to deal with abandonment issues rooted in having been adopted. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is struggling to raise his two daughters after the passing of his wife. Egad! Will they find a way to laugh, love, and live on… MOTHER’S DAY?
Why?! This is an important question for any Garry Marshall ensemble holiday flick. The answer ends up being quite simple: “Because it’s fucking [insert name of holiday], duh! Now go kiss [the person you’re supposed to kiss on said holiday].”
How?! Loaded question. The holiday is the purpose, driving us to the inevitable conclusion that everyone kisses their loved ones. How we arrive at the conclusion comes in a variety of flavors. Interestingly, for Mother’s Day that flavor seems to be a rainbow of different shades of grief and loss (and hilarity?… if you find grief and loss hilarious). For Bradley the story is him learning that he and his daughters will grieve differently over the loss of their mother/his wife. For Jesse it’s her mother having to come to terms with Jesse’s Indian-American husband and her sister being gay (loss of her idea of what a family is). Fortunately she quickly reaches acceptance after five minutes of playing with her mixed-race grandchild. For Kristen it’s the acceptance of her own story of being adopted and accepting her mother (Julia Roberts) despite her flaws. Finally, we get the full five stages of grief from Sandy as she comes to terms with the new structure of her blended family and her sons’ new stepmother. I just went all Professor Smadbeck on you. Would be interesting to go back and see how big a role grief over loss and change plays in the other Garry Marshall films or if it’s unique to Mother’s Day.
Who?! This is a toughie since the cast is so huge. I have to give a shout-out, though, to the only significant African-American character in the film, Kimberly (played by Loni Love). If it wasn’t for Loni this would be the whitest movie since Gods of Egypt (booooooooom). She had some fun lines and hit a respectable two on the Planchet scale. Even more interesting? She’s an electrical engineer by training. Worked eight years at Xerox. Talented lady.
Where?! Spoiler alert in the trailer, this took place in Atlanta. Pretty solid setting too with many mentions throughout. But not vital to the plot. Only convenience. It gets a C+.
When?! This is a rare A+ for the temporal setting. Takes place Mother’s Day, duh. Right there in the title and the crux of the entire plot. Bask in it, for it will likely never happen again.
I had some fun with that… more fun than I had actually watching the film.
‘Ello everyone! Mother’s Day? More like Bottler’s Day! (Boom, that is a deeeeep British bants cut right there. You bottlers!) We’ve completed a Garry Marshall trilogy. Did we hate it? Or did we merely dislike it? Read on to find out. Let’s go!
- The Good – There are four main stories (Hudson and the racist parents, Aniston and the “tween” second wife, Sudekis the widower, and Julia Roberts with her daughter she never met and the daughter’s British comedian boyfriend), and of those only the last is truly effective. Sudekis, Aniston, and Olyphant are all fine. Only the Hudson storyline is a hard miss. I think that is better than at least New Years’ Eve. They’re improving!
- The Bad – The Kate Hudson story. It is crazy disrespectful of what you might call “southern” culture. The parents are straight up racists and bigots, irredeemably so. To the point where you are expected to not bat an eye that their two daughters (1) didn’t tell them they both secretly got married and (2) both had a child. They hid their grandchildren from them! Why? Because they are racists … irredeemably so … except once the mother plays with the child for about 10 seconds, then’s all cool … let’s go for a picnic! Hooooooooooooooooooorseshit. But that is a Garry Marshall film. This was probably a primary reason the film got such terrible reviews. It genuinely sinks the entire experience.
- The BMT – Sure. All three of them are naturally. This is probably the middle child (and without Hudson’s part it would be the best by far I think) behind Valentine’s Day (I think, I don’t really remember), but ahead of New Year’s Eve. Watching these three and the future BMT Christmas Eve would be quite the holiday marathon.
I need a game. I’m not sure if there is a name for this yet, for now I’ll call it the Mechanic Sklogification. It is like sklogification (in which we change the plot of the film to suit our needs) except the intention is to fix the film a bit. I’m targeting the Hudson storyline. Here’s the key: Hudson and her mother were both in the wrong. The mother obviously was a bigot, and Hudson shouldn’t have hidden the fact that had a child from her mother in the end. So have everything proceed as normal, but focus on a final confrontation in which both sides are laid on the table. “You’re a racist” “I said hurtful things, but you were my 20 year old daughter dating a much older man, I would have said anything to get you to stop. It still didn’t give you the right to hide my grandchild from me” “So you’ll accept my mixed-race family and that my sister is gay?” “I accepted it all the instant I realized I could have you both back in my life again, I was just too stubborn to admit it”. Tears, everyone loves this movie (not really). But seriously the vignette’s issue is more that it treats southern culture like a movie villain, almost as if the entire movie was written and stars “liberal Hollywood types”. Watching it unabashedly insult literally millions of people with their simplistic version of liberal-conservative culture class was frankly shocking.