Sunday, May 1, 2016


Release date:
April 29, 2016
Garry Marshall

Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Britt Robertson, Jack Whitehall, Sarah Chalke, Margo Martindale, Hector Elizondo, Aasif Mandvi, Robert Pine

The things star power can persuade us to do. This weekend, the combined allure of Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson drew me to a theatre on a maniacally busy, I-don’t-have-time-to-breathe sort of day to watch Garry Marshall’s Mother’s Day.

It is not that the film held out the promise of being another Pretty Woman, Marshall’s career-defining 1990 film that made Roberts a household name. It did not. Mother’s Day is in the same league as the director’s Valentine’s Day (2010) and New Year’s Eve (2011), with an all-star ensemble cast and multi-strand format.

With three female leads, one male lead and a couple at the centre of the action, Mother’s Day is less crowded than those other two films. The quality, however, is many steps down, which says a lot considering that V-Day and NYE were just timepass fare. Hopefully this brings to a close the director’s fixation on festival-related relationship sagas. God, please make him stop at a trilogy. A quartet will be beyond endurance.

Aniston here plays interior designer Sandy, a middle-aged, divorced mother of two young boys, who gets along well with her ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant). Her travails in the film revolve around Henry’s unexpected announcement that he has married the young-enough-to-be-his-daughter Tina (Shay Mitchell from TV’s Pretty Little Liars).

Sandy’s friend Jesse (Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke, familiar again to Indian viewers primarily from TV’s Scrubs) are having relationship troubles of their own. Both are keeping crucial secrets from their overbearing, prejudiced parents.

Meanwhile, Sandy bumps into a fitness trainer called Bradley (Jason Sudeikis). He is a widower with two daughters and is still pining for his wife (Jennifer Garner) who passed away an entire year back, so you know from 10 miles away where that thread is headed.

On the professional front, Sandy is sought out for a design project by Lance Wallace (Hector Elizondo), agent of the hugely successful writer-entrepreneur Miranda (Roberts).

Elsewhere in the same town, as Mother’s Day approaches, Jesse’s friend Kristin (Britt Robertson) is hesitant to marry the father of her baby, her comedian boyfriend Zack (Jack Whitehall), for reasons yet undisclosed, although she is very much in love with him.

Mother’s Day is clearly intended as a light-hearted yet emotional look at womanhood, motherhood and parenthood in general as the day commemorating maternity approaches. Its Achilles heel is its other obvious intention: to manipulate us by any means available.

To be fair, the film is harmless fun in the first half even when it is not being particularly original. Besides, Aniston, Hudson, Roberts and Sudeikis are so likeable that it is near-impossible not to succumb to their appeal, even if Roberts is given surprisingly little to do in comparison with the others and her body looks impossibly padded up to make her look older for reasons that will become evident when you see the film.

But as the second half rolls along, Mother’s Day gets mushier and progressively more emotionally calculated, till it feels as though Marshall is not aiming at even an iota of depth. Perhaps he feels secure in the knowledge that audiences are easily pleased when so much charisma and beauty are on display. Perhaps, like generations of Hindi filmmakers, he feels the mere mention of Maaaaa is enough to reduce us to messy puddles of tears.

He is right up to a point (I confess). But even a schmaltzy-pretty combine can go only so far when the writing is so lazy and so transparent in its effort to pull at the heartstrings.

The bottom-of the-barrel moment of maudlin manipulativeness comes towards the end when Zack goes on stage with his baby in his arms during a comedy contest, delivers just one funny line in his entire routine, yet wins, no doubt on the strength of the kid’s cuteness alone. Apparently, his audience is as easily pleased as the one Marshall is targeting with Mother’s Day.

The shameless mushiness leads to an unintentionally amusing moment at one point when the baby’s Mummy, Kristin, confides in Jesse that she was given up for adoption by her birth mother. “I have abandonment issues,” she says in a weepy voice that is unwittingly hilarious.

While parts of the film are purportedly liberal, Roberts’ character Miranda uses the word “career” as if it means “that thing women do to fill up an emotional void” or “the thing that leaves women with no time to have romantic relationships and children”. She says it twice in a tone that suggests these implications are obvious.

Mother’s Day is silly. It is a measure of the cast’s collective charm that the film is not entirely unbearable.

Rating (out of five): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
MPAA Rating (US):
119 minutes 
PG-13 (for language and some suggestive material)
Release date in US:
April 29, 2016


No comments:

Post a Comment