The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Mothers and Daughters

The most depressing thing about Mothers and Daughters is that it wastes a brilliant cast. This is one of those movies with a bunch of different actors, all of whom have their own story arc. When tied together, those arcs are supposed to add up to a touching look at a specific issue, in this case motherhood. The key word there is “supposed.” Mothers and Daughters not only has nothing new to say on the subject, it's content to make age-old observations in the same way they've been made forever.

There is a fairly extensive cast of characters. Selma Blair plays Rigby, a professional photographer whose dream gig of going on tour with a rock star is derailed by an unexpected (and unwanted) pregnancy. Mira Sorvino is Georgina, a bra designer nervous to meet the daughter she placed for adoption years ago. Eva Amurri Martino portrays Gayle, who hesitantly asks her mother (played by the actress's real-life mom, Susan Sarandon) for seed money to help her husband start a pastry business. Alexandra Daniels is Layla, who is trying to hide her career aspirations from her successful, demanding fashion mogul mother (Sharon Stone). Finally, there's Christina Ricci as Becca, who is struggling to accept the revelation that the woman (Courteney Cox) she thought was her sister is actually her mother.

In any film of this type, some stories are bound to be more interesting than others. The unusual thing about Mothers and Daughters is that none of the stories are interesting. There isn't a fresh one in the bunch. You can probably think of other movies and TV shows that have told them. I guarantee you they have done so with more depth. The debut feature screenplay by Paige Cameron is stunningly shallow and surface-level. Characters say obvious things. Plot threads are not developed beyond the set-up, until they abruptly and unconvincingly resolve themselves. (One character, who says she doesn't have time for relationships, suddenly gets a boyfriend in the film's final minutes.) Worse, many of the scenes take place either on the phone or via FaceTime, so you don't even get the pleasure of seeing these talented actresses onscreen together sometimes.

Flat, lethargic direction from Paul Duddridge only serves to emphasize how poorly written Mothers and Daughters is. Everything is photographed in a bland point-and-shoot style that does nothing to establish tone or mood. Granted, there aren't many ways to make FaceTime calls visually exciting, but even the scenes where people are together in the same room lack any kind of elegance or style.

The only saving grace here is that the stars are all (inexplicably) committed to the material. It is virtually impossible for Susan Sarandon to give a bad performance, and the other actresses also do what they can with the weak material. (Ricci is the other standout.) Try as they might – and they do try - Mothers and Daughters simply gives them nothing of substance to work with. Yes, the film deals with dramatic issues, but it doesn't know how to find the drama within those issues. This could have been an amazing project. Instead, it's a 90-minute bore whose big message is – wait for it – mothers love their daughters no matter what and will do anything for them.

You already knew that, didn't you?

( 1/2 out of four)

Mothers and Daughters is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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