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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Two movies about mother issues

If you've seen the trailer for Cyrus, the new "comedy" (and I use the term loosely) starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, then you've seen the funniest bits. Actually, you've seen the only funny bits.

The premise alone had me eager for opening day. Reilly plays John, a pathetic, antisocial sad sack whose ex-wife (Catherine Keener), on whom he is still dependent, is about to get remarried. John meets Molly, a total hottie who, inexplicably, hasn't had a romantic relationship in about 20 years. They fall for each other instantly, but there is one obstacle to their love story: Molly's grown son. Cyrus lives at home, is still entirely dependent on his mother, takes an active interest in her sex life, walks in on her in the shower and may be a compulsive-lying kleptomaniac. All that looked hysterical in the trailer.

Cyrus turns out to be a great concept in search of a good screenplay.

Cyrus and John loath each other, but it takes the movie too long to get around to their open hostility, which is the funniest part of the movie.

The movie asks us to believe that the vibrant, witty, gorgeous Molly has given up her whole adult life to coddle her socially retarded, ne'er-do-well son. Clearly, Molly needs to be needed -- which can be the only explanation for her attraction to John. But, why? And, why does she indulge the creepy Oedipal desires of her oafish son? The movie never explains her motives, and the audience is ultimately left feeling cheated. Despite uniformly great performances, I say: Skip it.

The three main characters in Mother and Child all have serious mother issues, too, but theirs are fully examined. All three are struggling in some way with adoption -- Annette Bening's character gave a baby up for adoption, Naomi Watts' character was given up for adoption as a newborn and Kerry Washington thinks she wants to adopt after it's determined she and her husband cannot conceive.

The emotional struggles on display in these three interconnected stories include unfulfilled maternal instincts, abandonment, shame, a need for sexual control and the eternal struggle between mother and daughter. If the film sometimes verges on melodrama and hinges too much on coincidence, we can forgive, because its heart is always in the right place.

Look for Bening to be recognized come 2010 awards season for her turn as a bitter, brittle woman who can't let go of her past until she somehow makes peace with her own mother.

Even the supporting performances (Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson) are a joy to watch.
This movie continues to resonate -- long after the closing credits. See it.

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