Review of Motherhood

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In Manhattan, a mother of two preparing for her daughter's sixth birthday party has no idea of the challenges she's about to face in order to pull off the event. Starring Uma Thurman, Minnie Driver and Anthony Edwards.
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Movie Review: "Motherhood"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2009
Directed by: Katherine Dieckmann
Genre: Comedy/Drama

When she appeared in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series in 2003 and 2004, Uma Thurman played a character whose maternal instincts made her a ruthless avenger. In "Motherhood," Thurman once again takes on a parental role. This time, however, there are no samurai swords in sight. Instead of battling against armed assassins, Thurman's character is taking on slightly scarier enemies. She has to fight against judgmental friends, demanding kids, and all the conflicts and contradictions of modern parenting. Plus, she has to deal with all of this while living in New York, without a white picket fence in sight.

Like many contemporary mothers, Eliza Welch (Thurman) tries to have it all. Surrounded by the vibrant bustle of Greenwich Village, she is constantly reminded of the career path she left behind. The mother of Lucas (David and Matthew Schallip) and Clara (Daisy Tahan), Eliza has traded in her path as a writer for days full of dirty dishes, runny noses, and play dates. Along with her husband, Avery (Anthony Edwards), Eliza has to adjust to a whole new side of New York City. When she is lugging toys and groceries, the long flights of stairs that lead up to her apartment are no longer adventurous, just annoying. The earnest young people she encounters on the sidewalks have stopped seeing Eliza as one of them. Now, she hears the dreaded "ma'am" and cannot always relate to the childless hipsters who surround her.

The film follows a single day in the life of Eliza. At the end of May, the stay-at-home mother is trying to plan the perfect sixth birthday party for her precocious daughter. Meeting her daughter's requests proves surprisingly difficult, especially when Eliza feels so distracted by other events in her life. Thanks to her way with words, Eliza decides to enter an online contest. She has to sum up her feelings about motherhood in just 500 words. While she tries to organize her complex thoughts on modern parenting into such a small space, Eliza also has to field an argument with her pregnant and hormonal friend (Minnie Driver). In addition, there are dozens of small encounters throughout the day, from a towed car to a misspelled name on a birthday cake.

Eliza Welch might speak for some contemporary mothers, but she does not speak for all of them. Despite her complaints, Eliza's life is easy, even glamorous. She lives in one of the most iconic cities in the world, avoiding suburbia and strip malls. She runs into celebrities during trips to the playground. She misses her life as a writer, but still has the creative outlet of running a motherhood blog. Although she complains about money problems, Eliza's family still leads a very comfortable life for a single-income, four-person household in an expensive city.

In many ways, Eliza's childless predecessor is Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City." It is not too hard to picture Eliza sitting down to lunch with Carrie and the girls. Despite her problems, Eliza represents a fantasy for many people. She is a beautiful, sarcastic New Yorker who often does succeed at having it all. Just as "Sex in the City" is not an accurate portrayal of life for single career women, "Motherhood" does not speak to every mother. At the same time, it contains plenty of moments that will make most mothers nod their heads knowingly. Whether parents live in Greenwich Village or Boise, Idaho, they can all understand the frustrations of planning a birthday party. Women everywhere can laugh when Eliza accidentally wears a nightgown in public in broad daylight.

In the end, the movie is not a very serious or thought-provoking exploration of parenting. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. "Motherhood" is light, buoyant and entertaining, with a little sassiness and edge to keep audiences really laughing. Uma Thurman does not always get a chance to show off her comedic chops. Her skills as a comedian keep Eliza from being shrill and give her some warmth and humor. The film also touches on some relatively tough topics, including the stress modern women face when deciding between a career and a family. After spending a day in Eliza's shoes, many mothers in the audience will walk away feeling as if they understand their own jobs and lives a little bit better.

Rating: 3 out of 5