Released: 2nd August
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no job on earth harder than being a mother. It’s a 24/7 job that starts the second the child is born until the second one of the two people involved in the mother/child dynamic is no longer on the earth. Mothers will do anything for their children, including taking part in an elaborate bribery scandal to get their obscenely well off children into expensive colleges that they don’t deserve to attend. Mothers truly are something special, and they remain mothers even when their children have moved to another town and begun living lives that are completely separate from their parents. Of course, sometimes kids can be jackasses and forget to call their mothers while they’re off living their lives. When that happens there’s only one thing to do… an elaborate comedy about invasion of privacy that ends up going well for everybody!
Otherhood follows a trinity of mothers who became friends thanks to their children. Carol Walker (Angela Bassett) is a widow who is still hanging on to the memory of her deceased husband, even though he was less than kind, and buys herself large amounts of flowers every Mothers’ Day and pretends they’re from her son Matt (Sinqua Walls). Helen Halston (Felicity Huffman) is a divorcee who is still adjusting to her new marriage while hanging onto the memories of the old one, which has driven enough of a wedge between her and her son Paul (Jake Lacy) that he hasn’t even come out of the closet to her. Then there’s the overbearing mother Gillian Lieberman (Patricia Arquette) who is known for her constant meddling and cyberstalking of her son Daniel (Jake Hoffman) and his girlfriends, including his current girlfriend Erin (Heidi Gardner). After another Mothers’ Day without so much as a phone call, the trio of matriarchs decide they’ve had enough of being ignored by their sons and drive to New York to get the Mothers’ Day that they deserve.
So, Otherhood was meant to come out on April 26th but then there was this whole thing where one of the main stars pled guilty to crimes that she’s still awaiting sentencing for so Netflix had to push it back. Honestly, I don’t think they should’ve. I mean, yeah we were still raw about what Huffman did back in April but this film is so harmless that it wouldn’t have been affected by it. I was honestly prepared for this film to be a lot sharper-edged than it was, but it’s just a light fluffy harmless film with a simple message that amounts to “Call your damn mother every now and then” and it never tries to be more than that. It’s not raunchy or dark or even that shocking, the film only gets an R rating because they broke the rule of one F-word per film. That’s it. If you bleeped all the swear words this movie could be played at midday on the Hallmark channel. Honestly it just feels like they held it back because they knew the scandal would get more eyes on the film and it would be lambasted critically for just being average so they waited for the heat to die down enough so they could bury it with the release of the last season of Orange Is the New Black and that movie where Chris Evans is naked. I mean, if they were going to wait for Huffman to be through her scandal we wouldn’t be seeing this until next year so that should tell you something about its quality.
For what it’s worth, the actors are all fine. Angela Bassett continues to be too good for the material she’s been given and outshines everyone else in the cast with effortless ease. Patricia Arquette is just as lovable as ever, even when she’s being the stereotypical overbearing mother who sets her son up with a nice girl from Yonkers. Heck, Felicity Huffman was so good at being a snarky mother of a gay son that I forgot about all the crime stuff she did. They all have great chemistry with their sons who make for good comedic foils, especially Sinqua in a scene where he is trying desperately to get Angela to stop dancing which wasn’t going to happen; Stella did not get her groove back for her punk son to stop her grooving. The actors are really good and give good performances, but they do not have enough raw material to work with to produce anything memorable. Like all my reviews I’m writing this within an hour of watching the movie and I will be damned if there is a single line I can remember. I remember smiling, laughter, that I wasn’t actively stopping the movie in a desperate attempt to escape but the actual content from the movie? Yeah, damned if I remember that. Oh wait, I remember a lot of jokes about how one of the sons almost slept with an underage girl, I guess that was kind of a dark joke in concept but not in execution.
A lot of this movie felt like that, it works in concept but not execution because the execution needs a great script for these actors to work with and they just don’t have that. It’s a paint by numbers script, down to “Here’s the part where I reveal a secret” and “Here’s the part where we fight over something no one would fight like this about”. You can almost guess every single story beat from the second the movie begins. There’s no surprises and there’s no grit, there’s nothing of substance other than the lead performances. Maybe if they had been thrown into a dirtier grungier New York, maybe if their kids were a lot further gone than they assumed, maybe if there was an actual reason for them to stay in New York other than being petty, it might work. Hell, go full Bad Moms with it and you have something. Say what you will about the Bad Moms movies, they’re raunchy as hell and actually go for the jokes. They wouldn’t just have a character say “I owe you a blowjob” (YAY I remembered a line of dialogue); they’d have someone walk in on that and make that into an obscenely hilarious awkward scene. Here, there are no gut-busting hilarious scenes, there are just some scenes that bring a tiny knowing smile and a tiny titter out. I don’t want a tiny titter, I want to cackle damnit.
Otherhood is passable, it gets the job done. It shows off three talented actresses with comedic chemistry that is sadly underutilised by a script that is scared to take any actual chances and wants to be an R rated comedy without any R rated jokes. I could sit with my mother and watch this film without ever feeling uncomfortable… hell, I could probably do that with my grandmother, provided I made a sound to bleep out the swear words. It’s toothless, it’s harmless, but it’s not awful. It’s watchable, but then again so is Blown Away and that’s available on the same streaming service so go watch the competitive show about glass blowing, it’s got more edge than this ever will.