When you have a parenting movie set in New York, you should know better than to expect a warm-'n'-fuzzy story about the joys of having kids. In fact, Motherhood is out to prove that mothers have it rough.
The film follows Eliza Welsh (Uma Thurman), a Manhattan writer dealing with a cramped apartment, busy husband, and side-street parking while raising her two kids. A day in her life feels like a really, really long 24 hours. Eliza runs around frantically trying to prepare for her 6-year-old's birthday while composing an essay for a parenting magazine contest and squeezing in a sample sale with her mommy friend Sheila (Minnie Driver). We know that Eliza was once a great writer, but when she had kids, she decided to give up her job to raise her family. Now, she's a shell of her former self in frumpy clothes and messy hair. Simply put, Eliza is dealing with the classic parent conundrum: how do you care for your kids and still retain something for yourself? The answer? It ain't easy.
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Eliza doesn't try to feign martyrdom. In fact, she often whines about her plight in a way that screams, "I'm angry, dammit!" And at first, you're angry for her too. (No woman deserves to put up with all that she does.) But as the film goes on, Eliza's bitterness knocks you over the head, and you have to you wonder — is she like this every day? Yeesh.
Luckily we have Eliza's friend Sheila for some needed comic relief. Sheila is the cool single mom to the more neurotic Eliza — she mouths off cheeky one-liners and uses her son's motorized bath toy for her "alone time." Jodie Foster also delivers a hilarious cameo as a celebrity mom swearing at the paparazzi on the playground — aka, herself. Both women keep Eliza's "what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong" storyline from wearing too thin.
Mothers will probably identify with either Eliza or Sheila but what about the rest of us? While the actors perform well and the movie provides laughs for those who can relate (read: parents), most of the jokes don't feel fresh, and you've probably seen similar setups on shows like The Middle or In the Motherhood or any of the other dozens of family comedies in recent years. Props to the filmmakers for giving mothers their due, but if you're not one yourself, an hour and a half with Eliza may be enough to make you rush out of the theater and buy birth control.