I love my mom, which is why I won’t be taking her to see Mom & Me for Mother’s Day. Well, to be fair, we live four hours apart from each other, so we were planning on spending this day apart anyways – her card is in the mail. But, if there were a sudden change of plans and we could watch a movie together, I would still insist we steer clear of Ken Wardrop’s doc.
This sounds harsh, but Mom & Me is really bad. We’re talking cringing-in-your-seat bad. The attempt to thread different stories together featuring tough sons appreciating their mothers is awkward and choppy. It’s the kind of sentimental experiment that would prove to be too sweet for the late Gary Marshall (who’s last directorial effort was titled Mother’s Day).
Mom & Me could’ve used Marshall. In fact, had it been conceived earlier, the revered filmmaker could’ve been our guide – giving the film a tongue-in-cheek guardian angel. Instead, movie goers are seated next to Joe, a radio host who airs KVAD Radio’s The Joe Show out of a local station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Joe is cheesy and chatty. I’m sure he takes pride in his work, but being buddied with him for the duration of this flick is a little much.
All around Tulsa, various men tune in to The Joe Show. When Joe mentions he wants to talk about moms, the phone lines light up. Mom & Me consists of these phone conversations that end up carrying the viewer into the personal lives of the callers.
It’s very obvious Mom & Me is mostly staged. The editing gives away any magic with clips still having long lead-ins before someone talks. The banter sounds scripted until the men are alone with their moms. Then, things get weird.
It appears Ken Wardrop likes control of reality. His subjects are plopped in front of the camera, and they have conversations that sound as if the filmmaker just told them to “be normal” – it’s incredibly jarring and inauthentic. Any truth or love in the stories is severely undercut by Wardrop’s fear of organic unpredictability. Heavier stories later in the film have an easier time staying grounded, but the film continues to make clumsy transitions when switching over to another couple.
I’ll always welcome alternate ways to shoot a documentary, but Mom & Me is covered in too many fingerprints to work. Whether its the filmmaker’s obsession with control, Joe’s annoying input, or the stilted testimonials from Tulsa’s good ole’ boys, Mom & Me finds a way to embarrass us.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie