Addio Commentary: Much More to ‘Mother’s Day’

Let’s take a brief break from hot ticket TIFF screenings and talk about something that most movie goers have tried to forget: Garry Marshall’s Mother’s Day.

Before TIFF was in full-swing, I caught some movies that I’ve either been itching to see or was morbidly curious about.  I watched Mother’s Day, which falls into the latter category.  It wasn’t a high scoring flick with critics or audiences (earning a piddly 7% on Rotten Tomatoes with an audience score of 46%), but I was looking for fluff and I knew Garry Marshall could come through with unchallenging schmaltz to distract me from an upcoming busy schedule.

I watched Mother’s Day with my wife and mother-in-law.  For a comedy, the room was quieter than it should’ve been.  Each person would sporadically giggle at different jokes, but the film was mostly ineffective of making us genuinely laugh.  It was a long ordeal too – a two-hour duration that felt like two days.  However, there’s a certain charm to Mother’s Day that made me cave in – similar to when I watched Garry Marshall’s first holiday rom-com Valentine’s Day.

Marshall always had a fondness for feel-good sweetness.  Although, some will say the filmmaker used these recent holiday vehicles to guarantee a large box office draw, which may be true to an extent but only from a point-of-view of a producer, an executive, or a blasé criticizer.  According to Box Office Mojo, Valentine’s Day grossed $56,000,000 on its opening weekend and ended up grossing double its budget by the end of its theatrical run, but audiences didn’t take the bait when New Year’s Eve earned $13,000,000 on its first week of release and came up short with a total domestic gross.  But, Marshall was never one to exploit or manipulate people for money which is why I never felt disdain towards these harmless films.  They’re essentially an extended sitcom with a likeable cast – a formula that worked for Marshall throughout his career until modern audiences deemed it as weak and stale.

Garry Marshall passed away on July 19, making Mother’s Day his last directorial effort.  The film doesn’t have the bittersweet atmosphere of, let’s say, Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion (a self-aware final bow by a legendary filmmaker in poor health), but it is a piece of work showcasing a filmmaker in his natural, free-spirited element who was always willing to help eager go-getters in showbiz.  While some saw the movie as goopy sentimentality, I took Mother’s Day as a final peek into the generosity of Garry Marshall.  From subtly showcasing Kate Hudson’s line of fitness gear to random shots of youngers stealing a moment, Mother’s Day is a film filled with favours and smiles towards fellow filmmaking friends.  Unlike a Happy Madison production, the audience isn’t taken advantage of, and viewers still receive a well-intended warm-n-fuzzy flick.

This commemorative finding doesn’t dismiss Mother’s Day of its structural flaws, but it’s good to know this seemingly fluffy flick actually represents much more.

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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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