Otherhood Review: Have You Called Your Mother Today? Mum's The Word

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Summary

A game, talented cast refuse to sleepwalk through played-out roles and trite themes in this unimpressive Netflix dramedy.

Anyone who has seen a movie or two will recognize the framework of Netflix’s new dramedy Otherhood, about three mothers, Carol (Angela Bassett), Gillian (Patricia Arquette) and Helen (Felicity Huffman), who have drifted apart from each other and their grown-up sons. Each year on Mother’s Day they meet for an annual brunch, but things just aren’t quite what they once were; it’s the same setup as raucous no-boys-allowed comedies like Girls Trip, but the lamentations are for the lost youths of now-adult children, not the faded partying instincts that make for great get-together comedies.

This is adapted by director Cindy Chupack, a writer and producer of Sex and the City, from the novel Whatever Makes You Happy by William Sutcliffe. I can’t confess to having read the novel, but on-screen the story is trite and predictable. The humor is hard to find. And despite the enthusiastic efforts of an extremely talented cast, their insistence on trying to imbue their archetypal characters with real pathos and personality only serves to highlight how uninteresting the material they’re working with is.

It’s hard, I think, to feel sorry for mothers whose children are in their late-20s — perhaps because I’m also in my late 20s and from my perspective, a trio of self-pitying mums journeying into the city to meddle in their kids’ lives just seems intrusive. Otherhood has other ideas, though. We’re supposed to root for the neglected matriarchs, and the film is always on their side, even when the children — Matt (Sinqua Walls), Paul (Jake Lacy) and Daniel (Jake Hoffman) — rightly aren’t. Credit must again go to the cast, who fight against the film’s bias by embracing their characters’ flaws. You don’t hate any of these people, but you don’t care about them, either.

Flat dialogue and a lazy examination of motherhood, female friendship and getting older won’t win Otherhood any fans, except, perhaps, among the very specific demographic the film seems pitched squarely at. Needless to say, I’m not among it, and I could have very much done without this glossy, empty-feeling misuse of stars who deserve better material.

Jonathon Wilson

Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.

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