["It's All About Me and..." is my unique version of book/movie reviews. They are not your typical reviews, so don't complain if you learn more about me than about the book or movie under review.]
I know, I know. You either have not heard about this movie or you heard it sucked. And though I won’t wax melodically and claim Katherine Dieckmann wrote and directed the perfect film, I will strongly encourage some of you to see Motherhood. Which ones of you? Well, the moms out there, particularly the stay-at-home moms who have spent time crying silently on the bathroom floor in the middle of the day, grieving the creative, smart, sexy women they once were. Yes, you. You fabulous creatures.
Uma Thurman (who grew up in Amherst!) stars as Eliza, the mom in Motherhood, which covers a chaotic but special but typical day in the life of a stay-at-home mom/mom blogger/“former” writer who is raising two kids with her understanding though passive husband (Anthony Edwards) in New York City. (Greenwich Village co-stars brilliantly in this movie.) Like the blog Eliza writes in the only available dribbles of open time throughout her day, the movie comes off as a series of short essays and one-liners about the joyfulness and soul-slaughter of a life spent catering to the bottomless needs of others while earnestly trying to create well-rounded, grounded human beings.
One of the pleasures of Motherhood is that it made the small, everyday, mind-numbing, monumental efforts of my last fourteen or so years seem worthy of cinematic representation. Indeed Katherine Dieckmann defends herself in The Huffington Post, “This is why I decided to write a movie that insists a mother's life is worth watching, even if its shifts are small, closer to eddies than raging rivers.” Clearly, Dieckmann has spent some time crying on the bathroom floor.
Ultimately, the biggest flaw of this movie is that it is unfinished. Perhaps the forced ADD of mothering prevented Dieckmann from spending those extra few weeks in the editing booth putting a smooth finish on the movie. Perhaps she consciously chose to leave the movie raw and unsanded. Certainly Motherhood has its flaws, but that shouldn’t stop you from watching it.
There is one scene in particular that really resonated with me. (“Resonate,” by the way, is one of my favorite terms of the 21st Century. I can’t help using it with as much sincerity as possible while still holding my tongue in my cheek.) After a day of much hassle and drama, Eliza finally blows a gasket, gets in the Volvo and drives off. (Ok, driving to New Jersey is not my personal idea of spiritual escape, but hey, who am I to judge?) This impulse to get in the car and drive, just drive, anywhere (like, say perhaps, an improv theater in Chicago?) seems to be a common fantasy. I remember when I was around twelve, my mom lost her shit one day and drove off. I found her destination-free drive so confusing and fascinating. I remember questioning her on where she had gone and why. I’m sure my constant peppering didn’t make her decision to turn around and come back home seem like the best course of action at the time.
The Onion recently posted a funny report on this impulse to choose the flight of the fight-or-flight response called “Mom Just Locked Her Door”. “Mom, 46, has not emerged from behind the locked door, nor has she given any indication as to when or if she will return to the kitchen to resume making dinner, sources said. Speculation persists as to what could have provoked Mom's tense exit, with some citing the failure of Tyler to pick up his toys from the staircase, and others placing the blame on Katie and Joseph's repeated failure to set the table as requested, or on Dad failing to put his book down and help out for once.” I won’t spoil it for you by printing it here, but the last line of this article literally made me spit on my computer screen in familiar outrage.
If you ever see me with flames shooting out of my ears while white-knuckling it behind the wheel of a rattling 2005 Subaru Outback, heading west on the nearest highway, you’ll know I’ve snapped. Don’t try to flag me down (in fact, avoiding direct eye contact would be advised). At some point halfway through New York, I’ll probably sigh deeply, pull over to pee and buy a cup of tea and a muffin, and then turn around and head back home. Because that’s what we do. Good mommies always make a u-turn eventually.