Having a few good one liners and an easily identifiable and acceptable message doesn’t save Otherhood from being a predictable, mediocre film. Let me break this down.
I have laughed out about 5 times during the movie, which isn’t bad at all. However, the next morning, when I am writing this I don’t remember any single jokes, which is a sign that they were not that memorable. Here is the one-liner that everyone seems to love from the movie:
Mom: You didn’t call me on Mother’s Day.
Son: I texted you.
Mom: I birthed you.
You see this is cute, but nothing to text home about.
If you just read the short description of the movie you can already guess the message of the film: Moms should let their children grow up, make their own decisions and stop interfering with their children’s lives, although occasional nudging may be helpful. This is a common sense approach, that in the age of helicopter parenting (and then kids staying in the mama-hotel) sometimes gets lost. I am happy to see the idea of parents giving roots and WINGS to their children strengthened; something I identify as a parent with. Like this movie, similar to lots of other American movies, the message is so direct that the viewers have nothing to think about, nothing to “decipher”. I like movies that make me think and not just entertain. This movie did a sufficient job of the latter but didn’t even come close to satisfying the former function.
In my experience great, original art comes from artists — no matter the field they work in — who has a vision and execute them regardless of the potential audience. Sure, lots of bad art is born the same way. However it is a prerequisite for an outstanding one too. This movie feels the opposite of this concept: the authors wanted to give something to lots of target groups. Besides the adult mothers of adult sons it also tried to speak to African-Americans, Jews, LGBT people, urbanites, suburbanites… It gave a little something to identify with and create emotional attachment for all these and possible more types of people. In the process they lost focus and it shows. As a result, because there was no way to depict a deep or accurate picture of so many people they ended up using stereotypes of groups.
I don’t regret watching the movie, although it was more like listening, while I was going around the room doing my chores, because it was entertaining enough to run in the background.
Sidenote: when I checked whether the movie is available on Amazon — it isn’t, although I found its book version — I came across a 2015 book titled “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness” by Melanie Notkin. It explains how some women who others consider “childfree by choice” are not really so by choice. The reviews are mixed, but it still seems more enlightening as it includes at least some social analysis on how society discriminates against this group.
IMDB: “A grounded, soulful, celebratory comedy about three mothers and their adult sons. The film explores the stage after motherhood, Otherhood, when you have to redefine your relationship with your children, friends, spouse, and most importantly, yourself.”