There are movies by Garry Marshall that are “very Garry Marshall”, and movies that are “sort of Garry Marshall”. Mother’s Day is – most definitely – “very Garry Marshall”.
More of a series of extended vignettes than a film with one narrative, Mother’s Day follows several families on mother’s day weekend: a divorcee (Jennifer Aniston) who finds out her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant) eloped with a very young woman; a widower (Jason Sudeikis) who can’t let go; a broadcast shopping megastar (Julia Roberts) who favoured her career over a family; and a pair of siblings (Kate Hudson, Sarah Chalke) who lie about their life partners to their bigoted mother.
The film focuses on mothers – of course. The characters, either as mothers or in relation to their mothers/mother of their children, are very parentally focused because, well, it’s that time of year (humourously, that language is used in the film as though the holiday shares equal importance with Christmas, New Years or any other holiday with significant cultural meaning). It needs to be taken with a grain of salt for how seriously it makes a greeting card holiday out to be (and if you’re coming from Marshall’s Valentines Day, then you’ve done your homework and can skip this lecture).
Overall, Marshall’s Mother’s Day is fine. There are a few truly funny moments, but not where you’d think they’d be. The cast manages their way through a slightly awkward script – the jokes that are written as “jokes” by screenwriters Tom Hines, Matthew Walker, and Anya Kochoff don’t land. Despite sporadic laughs, ringer comedian Sudeikis is poorly cast as a mopey father who is still embarrassed by the word “tampon”, and the rest of the cast are either poorly directed by Marshall or lack comedic timing. Notably excused from this generalization is Sarah Chalke, who seems to be the only who comes across as having enjoyed making this film.
The emotional stakes aren’t very high, and they come about their conclusion as any slightly experienced movie goer would predict. There’s a lot going on, with five or six main plots and several supporting plots that have the illusion of intersecting, but really, some characters just kind of know each other – characters don’t affect plots outside of their own.
Mother’s Day is no achievement in filmmaking: the performances lack enthusiasm and nuance, the editing is all wrong, and the script is clumsy. This is an unfortunate assumption of the rom-com genre – these films can be above average, but they seem doomed from the beginning because more money than effort is put into them.
There is no mystery to how you will enjoy this movie: look at the poster. If you think it’s something you would like, then go see it because you’ll love it. If you can tell right away that it’s not your jam, then avoid it – it’s clearly not meant for you anyway.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery