Oh, Angela Bassett, how far you’ve fallen. Granted, I could say the same for Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman.
I had the misfortune of checking out the new Netflix original, “Otherhood,” this week. I thought the film might be an adult coming-of-age film, or better yet, a tale about friendship. It had that kind of “Thelma & Louise” vibe, minus the suicidal tendencies.
“Otherhood” is about three mothers, Carol (Bassett), Gillian (Arquette) and Helen (Huffman), who have been abandoned by their grown sons. It’s Mother’s Day. Carol’s son, Matt (Sinqua Walls), has completely forgotten. Gillian’s son, Daniel (Jake Hoffman), sent his mom a text. I can’t remember what Helen’s son, Paul (Jake Lacy), did, but honestly, most of the film is forgettable so that’s to be expected.
Over mimosas and bourbon, the three women decide they’re going to hunt their sons down and make them love them again. They pack bags and head to visit their sons, intent on staying with them.
Helen and Gillian chicken out, opting for hotel rooms instead, while Carol powers on into her son’s home and announces she’ll be staying for a bit.
“Otherhood” is classified as a comedy, and maybe for some, it is. The more I watched, though, the more disgusted I became at the complete disintegration of these mother-son relationships and these horrible, horrible people. Honestly, it’s a toss-up on whose relationship is the worst.
Gillian and Daniel are openly hostile toward each other. He’s had his heart broken, and she’s trying to fix him up with a nice Jewish girl from Yonkers. The animosity is front and center for both.
Helen and Paul aren’t much better. They’re both self-consumed narcissists. Her ex-husband left her for a younger woman, and she resents her current husband because he’s not young and attractive, too. This provides Paul plenty of ammo. He hurts her feelings, and part of his apology is more comments about what he perceives as flaws.
Finally, there’s Carol and Matt. They aren’t hostile or insulting, but they’re also barely acquaintances. She’s spent her life trying to please her husband, even after he’s been dead for years. Carol doesn’t fit in Matt’s life, and he is very clear about that fact. She also doesn’t care.
In case you hadn’t figured it out, “Otherhood” is a bit uncomfortable to watch.
Parts of it do make sense. After all, it’s rare that we, as adults, stay as close with our parents once we’ve flown the coop. Sure, we call or visit. Maybe we text or chat online, as my mother and I do. She lives about three hours away, so daily chats are done online. I still consider her one of my biggest supporters and closest friends.
These people, though? They’re family counseling waiting to happen. None of these people actually seem to like each other or who they are. Matt proves he has no clue who his mother is, aside from the woman who birthed him. Paul, who is gay and lives with his partner and two other gay men, resents everything about her. And then there’s Daniel, who might be the only one I understand. His mom is overbearing and could care less about what he wants or feels. So yeah, I get his animosity.
There were a few notable quotes I jotted down while watching the film:
The first is from the voice-over narration at the beginning of the film by Carol: “We were there for every big life event, and now we’re lucky if we hear about anything at all.”
Seriously, these moms aren’t nice people, and I understand why their sons don’t call. However, their sons are also horrible people, and the moms are better off not hearing.
Another quote, though, made me wonder a bit if I was in for a fuzzy film about friendship. It’s near the beginning of the film when the three moms are having their Mother’s Day brunch without any children present. Helen has brought bourbon, and Gillian brought doughnuts. Carol created a gorgeous spread of everything else, including the flowers she bought herself since her son is a jackass. The three women are moaning about their sons being absent instead of enjoying each other’s company when Gillian makes a comment that I kinda liked:
“We don’t have to lie about anything. Look, I just polished off a whole doughnut in front of you two. I didn’t even pretend to only want half. Come on, that’s friendship.”
The relationship between the mothers and sons was crap, but that comment made me believe this was perhaps a film about female friendship and how important it is. Instead, we discover the three friends have been lying to each other and by the end of the film, they’re barely speaking.
All the relationships are still tied up in a neat little bow. Matt and Daniel find love. Stella, er, Carol gets her groove back. Helen settles for the husband who loves her. Gillian decides to stop nagging her son but continues to wear ill-fitting clothing that is completely unflattering. (Seriously, the whole film has her wearing ponchos and the equivalent of colorful trash bags cinched with a belt.)
In the end, a colorful trash bag is an apt metaphor for this outing. Take that for what it is.