Motherhood is a comedy that celebrates the joys and frustrations of being a mom/wife/blogger/human being in the trendy West Village. The emphasis is on frustration. While many moms can sympathize with the long lines at Party City and the trials of planning a birthday party for a six-year-old (and maybe even being oh-so-close to a nervous breakdown), it’s not so easy to identify with Eliza Kendall Welch (Uma Thurman). That may be a good thing, making Motherhood one woman’s story.
Eliza does so many things so wrong that she seems to have been schooled in self-defeat. She refers to her husband Avery (Anthony Edwards) as eccentric when, throughout this day-in-the-life, he is insensitive, helpless, unsupportive, egotistical, and thoughtless. Okay, maybe I’m being a little kind.
Best friend Sheila (Minnie Driver) makes the mistake of sharing an embarrassing little story that was to go no further, yet Eliza puts it in her blog, naming Sheila. (To see a satisfying movie about a blogger, try Julie and Julia.) Sheila feels betrayed and furious, and we are more concerned with this relationship than Eliza’s marriage. Some of us are actually rooting for a divorce.
Eliza is a frustrated writer who has until midnight to enter an online writing contest, describing what motherhood means to her in 500 words. Finding the time to do that is nearly impossible; when she does produce an article, her husband — the copy editor for a travel publication— ruthlessly proofreads it. He marks it up with red pencil as if it were a freshman essay. Finding his comments after an especially trying afternoon, Eliza loses it. She jumps in her car and heads for Jersey, abandoning her family and her life.
We don’t have to be sensitive to see that she’s unhappy, with little support, lots of pressure, and no fulfillment. As she escapes from Manhattan she gets repeated phone calls from her husband, disconnecting him rather than talking to him. When she finally takes the call, expresses her feelings, and explains what she’s doing and why, another domestic crisis pops up, and as soon as she’s out of the Lincoln Tunnel she u-turns and heads back to the city. Codependency, anyone?
Finally, Eliza and Avery have a conversation. When she mentions someone who looked at her like she had something to say, Avery responds, “I always tell you you have something to say.” How could that be possible when we see he never listens to her? Can this marriage be saved?
To find humor in Motherhood watch for Clea Lewis as Lily, a mom who is totally caught up in any and all trendy childcare suggestions, no matter how goofy. Also note Arjun Gupta’s sweetly appealing performance as a messenger who doesn’t limit his view of Eliza to the roles she has chosen. Uma Thurman is wasted as a woman we want to like but annoyingly alternates between lovable and horribly inept.
There are things I love about Motherhood: the costumes, the sets, the West Village. In the end, Motherhood is more a polemic against motherhood and marriage than an ups-and-downs comedy.
Specials included with Motherhood include interviews with Uma Thurman, Anthony Edwards, Minnie Driver, and director Katherine Dieckmann; and audio commentary with the producer and director.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Motherhood? No.