Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day

Year 9, Day 134 - 5/14/17 - Movie #2,629

BEFORE: Margot Martindale carries over again from "28 Days"...


THE PLOT: Three generations come together in the week leading up to Mother's Day.

AFTER: I hate to speak ill of the dead, but this is the last film directed by Garry Marshall, the third in his series of holiday-based romantic comedies, and I'm relieved that there won't be any more in the series.  I mean, how long would it have been before we'd be subject to Flag Day and Arbor Day as vehicles for star-studded ensemble romances?

It's all the fault of "Love, Actually", I think, which focused on the romantic aspects of Christmas (because, you know, who needs Santa and Jesus and Frosty and Rudolph, at the end of the day...) and then Marshall countered with the too-obvious "Valentine's Day" and the narrative mess that was "New Year's Eve".  And this led to the jumbled mess that is today's film, which attempts to interweave three family-based narratives together that have the most tenuous connections between them, all in the name of celebrating motherhood.  Or romance.  Or comedy, we're not really sure.

You can tell from the way that the credits are laid out on IMDB, which list all of the actors from one storyline first, then the next, then the next, so clearly they took three screenplays and Frankensteined them together, hoping in vain that something alive would rise from the combination of three corpses.
(Please bear in mind that my rating tonight is just for the film, not for Mother's Day in general, which I'm in full support of.  But this is not the way to celebrate it, it's just not.). But instead they got a final product that caused me to roll my eyes more than Anderson Cooper during an interview with KellyAnne Conway.

There are, like, a thousand reasons why this is a terrible story, or collection of stories.  I'm not kidding, you can start with the fact that it's (mostly) about white people, and white people with money, and that makes them entitled, and you can go from there.  Every single character is motivated by their own right to happiness, and makes all of their decisions based off this fact that they all DESERVE to be happy, and anything less is simply unacceptable.  Being rich and white in America does not entitle you to anything except the PURSUIT of happiness, and you have to understand that there are no guarantees, plenty of people are going to pursue happiness and never get there.

But let me just focus on the narrative aspects for a bit, and explain why this story is such a jumbled mess, one that goes around in circles and never gets anywhere.  A story should set up some expectations by introducing certain story elements.  Then, once these expectations are set up, they need to either be fulfilled or provide some reason why they aren't fulfilled, which can be a twist.  The one thing that CANNOT happen is for these expectations to be forgotten or ignored.  (What if, in "The Lord of the Rings" they told Frodo he had to deliver the ring to Mount Doom, and the third film just featured him and Sam going out to dinner or something?)

So, storyline "A" (by my reckoning) is the divorced woman with two sons, who gets news from her ex-husband that he is getting married to a younger woman.   This sets up a chance for personal growth, where she now has to share her sons with their new step-mom.  But instead we get a lot of pettiness and competition, where she throws a party FOR NO REASON complete with llamas and clowns and inflatable water-slides, on a Saturday (the day before Mother's Day, apparently) which is the day the kids are supposed to spend with their father.  She KNEW that, she HAD to know that, but she did it anyway, which makes her a horrible person.

Storyline "B" is the father with two daughters whose military wife passed away (they never say whether she died while serving, or some other way, which is a glaring omission) and he has to decide whether the family is going to celebrate Mother's Day, all while completely clueless about how to raise his daughters and deal with boyfriends, periods and such.  This character is all over the place, too, I mean, he runs a gym and seems to be fairly smart, but how can he not understand grocery shopping?  His daughter comes to him and says they need food, did he not realize that the refrigerator was getting empty?  So he says, "OK, what do we need?"  Umm, bread, milk and eggs, genius, it's not that complicated.  This is all to set up the standard "Dad, I need tampons" conversation so he can be made to feel uncomfortable.  So you give your daughter $10 and send her to the drugstore herself - again, not that complicated.

Here's the problem - early in the film, we see the dad and his daughters visiting his wife's grave.  Then with Mother's Day approaching, he's unsure how to celebrate the holiday.  His daughters head out without his knowledge, to visit their mother's grave.  This cannot constitute character growth, since there was the earlier scene where they did exactly that.  From a narrative standpoint, it would have made more sense for the father to AVOID visiting the mother's grave, then learn that this is what his daughters wanted to do, and that this would be the best way to honor her memory.  But that would have made him an even more horrible person, so they couldn't do that.  As a result, the big reveal ended up falling flat.

Storyline "C" is the two sisters whose right-wing parents live in Texas, and neither has been honest about their relationships - one is married to a man of Indian descent, and the other is married to a woman.  They both have been lying to their parents about their relationships, and they both have CHILDREN in their relationships, which means that their parents are being deprived of even knowing that their grandchildren exist, which is just - NO NO NO - people do not DO this.  OK, maybe some people aren't completely honest with their parents, but this is beyond the pale.  Even if possible, there was a time to correct this, and when the grandchild is now 8 or 10 years old, we're way past that point.

Here's the big joke, Mom and Dad are on their way to Atlanta in their RV. (We know this is set in Atlanta, because the sisters say things to each other like, "I'm gay and you're married to an Indian man, and we're both lying to Mom and Dad, and this is why we live in Atlanta.")  But they talk to their daughters via Skype along the way - so the daughters can plainly SEE the background of the Skype call, and the fact that Dad's driving and the scenery is rolling by, did they ever once think to say, "Hey, Mom and Dad, where are you driving to?"  No, of course not.

Once they arrive, and all the secrets are revealed, Mom and Dad have a tough time dealing with the fact that one daughter is gay and the other is married to a "towelhead" - which makes them more horrible people.  But the daughters are horrible people, too, for lying to their own parents.  Which is worse, living the reality or telling the lie? It's not just that Mom and Dad are racist and homophobic, it's that their daughters never gave them a chance to be anything else.  That's what it means to be progressive, sometimes you have to confront the previous generation and drag them into modern times.

But hey, good news, it's the type of racism that can be solved by just an accidental Skype call from their son-in-law's mother, when they suddenly realize that Hindu people are also, you know, people.  Come on, give me a break.  Imagine the type of anti-immigrant fervor going around this country now, can you solve that just by pointing out that some Mexicans (or Arabs, or whatever) are also humans?  It's not believable.  Plus, what suddenly made them accept their other daughter's lesbian lifestyle?  This was never even addressed.  

Storyline "D" is the barmaid who's had a daughter with an aspiring stand-up comic (like THAT'S a good idea...) but she can't bring herself to accept his marriage proposals because she was adopted and has never met her real mother.  She finally contacts her mother (who's in Atlanta on a book-signing tour) and she's a well-off home shopping personality who apparently fends off three women a week claiming to be her daughter.  Wait, how is that a thing?  Meanwhile her boyfriend manages to win a stand-up comic competition (umm, also not a thing...) by bringing the baby up on stage with him.

I could bury you in a few hundred more NITPICK POINTS, like the float that a character makes for the Mother's Day parade, which A) would never be allowed in any parade because it's shaped like a vulva and B) does not get used for its intended purpose, but instead follows the parents' RV at a random point in time, and we never learn why or who was driving it.  It's like the director suddenly realized that there is NO SUCH THING as a Mother's Day parade, not in any city, but still wanted to use the float that got built for something, and that was as good a time as any.

But what purpose would that serve?  It's just another piece of nonsense, as is this whole film.  Again, the holiday is very important, call your mom today - and stop lying to her about your relationship, if you are - but please don't make her watch this film.

Also starring Jennifer Aniston (last seen in "Horrible Bosses 2"), Julia Roberts (last seen in "The Mexican"), Jason Sudeikis (last seen in "Race"), Kate Hudson (last seen in "Bride Wars"), Timothy Olyphant (last seen in "Dreamcatcher"), Britt Robertson (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Shay Mitchell, Jack Whitehall, Hector Elizondo (last seen in "American Gigolo"), Sarah Chalke, Robert Pine, Aasif Mandvi (last seen in "Music and Lyrics"), Cameron Esposito, Jon Lovitz (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania 2"), Loni Love, Brandon Spink, Caleb Brown, Ella Anderson, Jessi Case, with cameos from Larry Miller, Jennifer Garner (last seen in "Dallas Buyers Club"), Paul Vogt and the voice of Penny Marshall (last seen in "How Sweet It Is!")

RATING: 2 out of 10 soccer games

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