This Sunday is Mother’s Day. But you already know that, because Hollywood has no intention of letting you forget the holiday or the tremendous impact your mother has had – for better or worse – on your life. Late April brought The Meddler (charming) and Mother’s Day (horrifying), and May brings us Mothers and Daughters, an uneven if earnest attempt at examining the ways mothers and daughters relate. Or don’t.
Mothers and Daughters is made up of sort of overlapping vignettes of, well, mothers and daughters: an up and coming designer (Mira Sorvino) struggling with a parenting choice made decades ago; two women (Courtney Cox and Christina Ricci) who’ve just lost their mother and are working through toxic family secrets; a powerful career woman (Sharon Stone) and her distant daughter (Alexandra Daniels); a newlywed (Eva Amurri Martino) who is so insufferable that you wonder why her mother (Susan Sarandon) would actually want to reconnect with her; and – ostensibly connecting all of the storylines – photographer Rigby (Selma Blair) who finds out she’s accidentally pregnant and is haunted by her own relationship with her mother as she considers what to do.
Seems like there’s a lot going on there, right? And I haven’t even mentioned any of the men in the movie. It’s an awful lot to cram into 90 minutes, but the strange thing about Mothers and Daughters is that it is at once both too short and too long. Screenwriter Paige Cameron and director Paul Duddridge can’t seem to decide what level of depth they’re aiming for in any of their storylines. As a result, plotlines that could have been interesting if they were further developed end up being strangely abandoned for large chunks of the film, or worse, jettisoned off into odd places that seem inconsistent with the admittedly superficial understanding we have of the characters. Equally confounding are the bizarre tangential storylines – most notably one featuring a rock star with whom Rigby works – that pop up out of nowhere and then disappear just as suddenly.
Mothers and Daughters is not a terrible movie, and that’s a credit to the cast. As a whole, the group does good work with an uneven script, and it’s especially nice to see a few talented and likeable actresses – Sorvino, Blair, Ricci – who haven’t been terribly easy to find in recent years. It’s also kind of fun that the film draws from a couple of real-life relationships. Sorvino has been married to Christopher Backus, who plays her on-screen significant other, since 2004. Martino is Sarandon’s real life daughter as well as her on-screen daughter. Based on the brevity of Sarandon’s screen time, it seems likely that her cameo was done as a favor to her daughter, which is even more reason to be grateful for their relationship.
In the end, if you need a movie that you can use to show your mother how much you love her, you could do worse than Mothers and Daughters. But even with a solid cast, the movie misses the mark. It’s one thing to be raw and unpolished; it’s entirely another to leave audiences with the feeling that the script never got past the brainstorm phase, and the lack of intentionality condemns this film to the “merely adequate” realm. Despite wanting desperately to carry itself with the gravity of an award contender – or at least an AMC drama – Mothers and Daughters can’t overcome the fact that it’s a soap opera at heart.