Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Garry Marshall
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Jack Whitehall, Hector Elizondo, Shay Mitchell, Cameron Esposito, Margo Martindale, Asif Mandvi, Robert Pine, Sarah Chalke, Ella Anderson, Loni Love, Lucy Walsh, Jennifer Garner, Larry Miller, Sean O’Bryan, Brandon Spink, Caleb Brown, Jon Lovitz, Grayson Russell.
Mother’s Day is the third film in director Garry Marshall’s unofficial trilogy based around Hallmark-like “special events” holidays, and it follows the bland template established by the romcom Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. All three films are multi-character narratives with interwoven storylines and a star studded ensemble cast in which a bevy of A-listers vie for screen time. In terms of quality though Mother’s Day falls somewhere between the superior Valentine’s Day and the lacklustre New Year’s Eve, which seem a little contrived by comparison.
Given the title it’s not surprising that all of the narrative strands here revolve around different concepts of motherhood, maternal responsibilities, complex mother and child relationships, and the daily struggles of motherhood. The formulaic script has been written by four writers including Anya Kochoff Romano (Monster-in-Law) and three first time screenwriters in actor turned writer Tom Hines (a regular in many of Marshall’s films), Lily Hollander, and Matthew Walker, which accounts for a slight unevenness in tone at times.
The film is set in Atlanta and centres around a number of middle class women during the days leading up to the titular celebration day.
Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke, from Scrubs, etc) live next to each other, and they haven’t seen their parents for a couple of years, mainly because they fear that their judgemental mother (Margot Martindale) will disapprove of their lifestyle choices. Jesse has married Russell (Aasif Mandvi), a doctor of Indian descent with whom she has a young son, while Gabi is gay and married to her girlfriend Max (Cameron Esposito). But when their parents unexpectedly stop by for a surprise visit the scene is set for some emotional upheavals and broad racist humour before a reconciliation can be affected.
Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is divorced from her husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant, from tv’s Justified, etc), but they seem to share a good relationship. But then Sandy is shocked to learn that he has married the much younger Tina (Shay Mitchell, from Pretty Little Liars, etc). She is a little jealous and even bitter at having to share her two sons with their new stepmother who is barely out of puberty herself.
Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a physical trainer still recovering from the death of his wife (a cameo from Jennifer Garner), a soldier who was killed in action in Afghanistan a year ago. He is something of a mister mum, trying to raise his two daughters, but struggling to keep it all together. Several of the women at the gym where he works are trying to fix him up with a suitable partner. But as Mother’s Day approaches, Bradley is not sure how to handle his emotions.
Zack (Jack Whitehall) works in a bar but is also an aspiring stand up comic. He wants to marry his girlfriend Kristin (Britt Robertson, from The Last Ride, etc), who is the mother of his young daughter. But Kristin was adopted as a child and is still suffering from some abandonment issues. She is reluctant to marry him until she can come to terms with who she is.
The link that draws all these various characters together is Miranda (Julia Roberts), the popular host of a television home shopping network program and celebrity author.
The cast do what they can with their at times cliched characters. Aniston is a familiar figure in romcoms, and fittingly most of the best moments and best lines are given to her character. She manages to bring the material alive whenever she is on screen. Hector Elizondo, who has appeared in all of Marshall’s films, has a small role here as Miranda’s increasingly exasperated manager.
This is surprisingly lazy filmmaking from veteran Marshall, who of course gave us such classic television sitcoms as Happy Days, Mork And Mindy and The Odd Couple, and big screen romantic comedies like the classic Pretty Woman. Mother’s Day is suffused with his trademark mix of humour and warmth. Here he juggles his large cast and multi story lines deftly enough, and gives us a mix of slapstick humour mixed with sentimentality that sometimes slips into mawkishness.