The month that brings us Father’s Day is also the month that brings us Mother’s Day. Not sure if it is intended irony, as it is thought that Mother’s Day holds the most importance, but anyway. This is another star-studded comedy on our screens. Should be triumphant, right?
Overall: no. The film has a structure where you are thrown into the lives of a variety of different families, all with their issues and different circumstances leading up to Mother’s Day. You are essentially following the lives of different mothers. You have Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) playing the happily divorced mother until she finds out her ex-husband has married a younger woman. You have two sisters Jesse and Gabi (Sarah Chalke & Kate Hudson) who are nervous of their mother finding out that one of them is a lesbian, and the other is married to a man of colour (this aspect of the storyline was distinctly cringy). You have Kristin (Britt Robertson) who despite having a child with her boyfriend feels fearful of marriage with him, and finally you have Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), who is a widow, and dealing with Mother’s Day as a single father.
The film endeavours to follow the same format as Love Actually where they are interconnecting as many stories as possible. Unfortunately, for Mother’s Day, it does not work. Scene to scene feels either quick or laboured. There was no real first, second or third act just a combination of independent things occurring for different families at separate times. There are moments where the film focuses on two of the families a bit too much (Bradley’s and Sandy’s) and I started to forget what was happening with the other two. Although Love Actually is not a stand out film for me it did play this format brilliantly, where it moved from scene to scene smoothly and led up to a climatic closure. It worked with that film, but as I sat there seeing another feel-good comedy fail to replicate this format I now hope it is not attempted again for this type of genre unless there is a very good reason for it.
As for the comedy itself – it is funny in its odd moments and some of the gags are clever but again, like my problem with The Nice Guys, it was not laugh out loud funny. Some of the comedy moments were actually tasteless and here is an example – one of the gags is that the sister’s parents are clearly homophobic and racist but it did not work for me. And what I mean by that is that it actually made me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes in comedy when characters play out tough subjects like, for example, racism, you are laughing at the racist because it is ridiculous and you disagree with them so much to the point that you are laughing at them. The problem with Mother’s Day is that they overplay this racist/homophobic gag to the point that you place yourself out of the spectrum of the film and question what they are trying to do. The uncomfortableness reaches its limit in a certain scene where a police officer approaches them as a group and as soon as an Indian guy is present (who happens to be one of the main characters) the officer overreacts and points his gun to get him on the ground. This is 2016. The film is set in 2016… maybe I am not getting the humour but there are more quick-witted ways of tackling this subject without overplaying it.
The acting in this film is okay but to be honest there is nothing in the script to aspire them to put in a great performance. Jennifer Aniston puts in her usual performance and there are some good supporting additions to the film like Jack Whitehall who plays Zack, who is actually a stand-up comedian in the narrative as well. He plays out some great moments with Kristin as an upcoming comedian whilst trying to get the girl he loves to marry him. I cannot criticise the performances in this film but not of them made me think about them after the credits. It also does not help with the amount of well know performers in this film all trying to get their screen time. The film fails to make the best use of a list of good talented performers onscreen – this could have been a very enjoyable and extremely well played out comedy yet it fails incredibly.
I guess my main problem with the film is that there is way too much going on. Comedy films are difficult to get right as you are essentially trying to make a mass audience laugh. I believe that comedies have to get the script right more than any other genre because people sit down in the cinema and expect to laugh – the more people that laugh at the film then the mood changes drastically and it becomes a good experience. I think if they cut down a couple of scenes or had one less family they could have made sure it had more structure and put more effort into the jokes. The film tries to fit too much into 118 minutes and another annoying factor is that this film is too long for any attention span. By the time you reach Mother’s Day you feel restless which shows the jokes are not keeping you on until the end.
I always judge a comedy by how I feel after. If I want to see some of the gags again I know for a fact that I will watch it again. If I’m honest I left the cinema with this film feeling pretty much nothing. This is not the worst film but it is not a good one either. It is a film with many stars that fails to deliver even simple comedy.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.