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Family Movie Review: Mothers and Daughters (PG-13)

MothersAndDaughters ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 92 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This film about the relationships between mothers and daughters includes some cursing and language, some sexually themed and vaguely homophobic humor, some talk about drug use and a character smokes marijuana to treat medical pain, a character has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, another character has terminal cancer, another character is in rehab, and some die off-screen, some kissing, a subplot involving an unplanned pregnancy and the possibility of a termination, and a male character is seen about to rape a drunk woman.

‘Mothers and Daughters’ isn’t nearly as tone-deaf or totally worthless as last week’s ‘Mother’s Day,’ but still is problematic in its depiction of womanhood. This film has so many clichés about the meaning of femininity that it’s hard to keep track.

By Roxana Hadadi

This Mother’s Day weekend brings various options for mothers and daughters going to the movies together, but why are so many of them disappointing? Last week’s “Mother’s Day” was racist, classist trash, and this week’s “Mothers and Daughters” isn’t much better. (If you haven’t checked out “The Meddler” yet, you should.)

This film’s interwoven subplots about various mother/daughter relationships touch on issues including adoption, termination of pregnancy, and rape, but there’s an artificial edginess here that doesn’t work for the subject matter. For as much as these female characters talk about past trauma and hardships, they’re still the same characters we always see at the movies: wealthy white women living in gorgeous homes, wearing expensive clothes, in solidly heterosexual relationships, all implied to be Christian. What about everyone else? What about other “mothers and daughters”?

There’s no diversity here, in the characters or in the stories told, and that creates the same kind of disappointment as what we got with “Mother’s Day.” Plus, the film’s distinct lack of humor—unless you include a homophobic joke about men who are bakers, and another zinger about the expensiveness of truffle oil—makes all this faux-sentiment feel like a slog.

Much like “Mother’s Day,” there are so many characters in “Mothers and Daughters” that it’s difficult to feel genuine connections with any of them, they’re so sparsely rendered. But the main focus is on a few different women, most of whom live in the same New York City apartment building.

There’s photographer Rigby (Selma Blair), who is surprised to learn she’s pregnant after a breakup and who considers terminating the pregnancy, only to reconsider after her handsome doctor basically questions her judgment. There’s bra designer Georgina (Mira Sorvino, of “Do You Believe?”), whose work is recently featured by big-time magazine editor Nina (Sharon Stone) but who is rattled when the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago contacts her, wanting to meet. And lawyer Becca (Christina Ricci, of “The Smurfs 2”) is shocked when she learns that who she thought was her older sister, Beth (Courteney Cox, of “Scream 4”), is actually her mother, altering a relationship she’s had her whole life.

All of the vignettes in “Mothers and Daughters” are supposed to show the transformative nature of motherhood, and how all the hardship and sacrifice brings wisdom and love, but the film invests such little time in these characters that we can’t, either. These are all experienced actresses and some of them do more than others—Stone, especially, goes all-in during her limited screentime—but the film treats almost all of their characters strangely, even disrespectfully.

Georgina is shamed (she literally calls herself a “slut”) for letting her daughter be adopted by people she knew could take better care of a baby than she could. Jokey, mocking music is played when Rigby explains why she doesn’t want children, undercutting her rationale. But what’s worst of all is a subplot involving a famous musician who tries to rape a clearly drunk woman and then has a conversation with his mother in rehab about it, where she asks him “Did I do this to you?” The shifting of blame, from a man who chooses to sexually assault a woman to his absent mother, is the most repellant part of “Mothers and Daughters.”

There are pieces of this film that have the potential to be something better, but the film claiming to respect “mothers [who] come in all shapes and sizes” is clearly a fallacy. Instead, “Mothers and Daughters” can be summed up in one throwaway line used to describe Georgina’s bra collection: “Who knew there was so much new to do with boob support!” There actually isn’t anything new to tell, and “Mothers and Daughters” doesn’t have anything else original to offer, either.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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