Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Review: Mother's Day - It's Just Awful
by Jeremy Kirk
September 26, 2010
There could be a decent film scrapped together in all that Darren Lynn Bousman shot for the remake of Mother's Day. As one of the benefits of seeing a film with a Q&A after, you realize the potential a film has even before it is released to mass audiences. In the Q&A at Fantastic Fest, Bousman explained that there was also five-hour cut of the film, one that we obviously did not see and one that will obviously not be shown to the public. It should be noted at this time that this first paragraph is not part of my review, but more an explanation that what I saw may not be what you will be seeing when Mother's Day gets its release next year. That film might be good. It might feel polished. The acting could bring about the emotions required of the characters involved and the events transpiring around them. The Mother's Day that gets released might be that film. What I saw was not.
Instead, Mother's Day as it is is a hateful, sloppily written, horribly performed story with the same slick execution Bousman has come to be known for. It isn't an out-and-out atrocious film, one that you can enjoy on a wholly guilty pleasure level, like catching a glimpse of a car wreck as you pass on the freeway. It's just bad, and that car wreck you may have held out hope for catching sight of has been cleaned up, but the bloodied bodies are still laying on the pavement.
Mother's Day centers on a trio of criminal brothers. After a botched bank robbery (which we don't see, but don't expect any artistic, Reservoir Dogs-esque nuance there), the youngest of the brothers is shot and bleeding in the back seat of their car. As any good criminal does when he finds himself gut-shot and wanted by the police, he goes home to his loving mother. But the mother of these three criminals is not home any more. Instead, her house has become foreclosed, and a young couple have moved in. A birthday party is going on. A tornado (literally) is headed their way. The criminals bust in. Mother (Rebecca De Mornay) eventually comes back. All hell breaks loose.
It's difficult to run through a basic premise for Mother's Day. We know by the opening credits that we are at the beginning of the film. Outside of that, where we come in feels more like the second or third reel of the film rather than any actual opening. What is lost in those reels is any real sense of establishment for anyone. We don't know much about the criminals. We know even less about the people they take hostage. Granted, as the story continues, we come to learn things about each character, but that initial lock on any one of them is completely absent here.
Once those secrets and otherwise identifying marks on each character come to light, our case for caring for anyone isn't help in the slightest. There is hardly anyone you can root for in Mother's Day. It's particularly noticeable when things become hairy and everyone becomes out for numero uno. Jaime King as the wife of the protagonist couple may come the closest. At least, she has the most potential of coming out as the heroine of the entire piece, but even revelations about who she is and things she has done in her past make it difficult to fully back her through the chaos.
Bousman directs all the action with a stylish eye. His shots are composed well and there is enough smooth transition from scene to scene to make mention. The lighting is commendable, particularly when the ensuing tornado begins reeking havoc on the outside world. That tornado, by the way, is the slowest act of God known to man and ends up having absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story.
Sadly, his hold on his actors cannot compare to his eye for shot composition. Most of the dialogue is delivered awkwardly. Certain actors resort to non-stop screaming to emote sheer panic, and it doesn't work. the only one who appears to be having any sense of fun here is Rebecca De Mornay as the titular mother. She brings a gusto that makes the mother figure an overpowering force of nature inside the house, and that's even before she begins screaming and gnashing teeth. De Mornay proved she has what it takes in her villainous portrayal in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. With her role in Mother's Day, she shows what might have become of Peyton Flanders had she lived on to continue her motherly duties. It really is her film here, and, when she is not in the present scene, it feels even more hollow than usual because of it.
And, really, that may be where Mother's Day ends up, as a hollow, candied shell with absolutely no filling. Bousman's execution might be commended, and De Mornay might be a blast to witness. However, the lack of character both in the people within the film as well as the narrative at hand leaves you with an empty embrace, as if the maternal passion has long since gone. All that is left are the morsels, and even those are rotting your teeth. You know. Like Mother always said.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 4 out of 10