There are thousands and thousands of books on parenting your baby, toddler, child, and teen, but not really a rulebook for what happens after they grow up. Adult parent/child relationships are complicated and are hard to navigate as parent and child become equals. As representation in film becomes more diverse, stories of parenting those with and for those diversities will come to the forefront. Otherhood, starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman, had an opportunity to do that. Instead of telling a nuanced authentic story of mother and son relationships with a black, Jewish, and LGBTQ perspective, what we get is a bunch of stereotypes and Angela Bassett trying her best.
The plot starts out innocently enough; three mothers (Bassett, Arquette, Huffman) try to reconnect with their adult sons (Sinqua Walls, Jake Hoffman, Jake Lacy, respectively) after feeling abandoned by them. After receiving little more than a single text on Mother’s Day, the mothers collectively decide to ambush their sons in New York City. Arquette’s Gillian won’t leave Hoffman’s Daniel alone about settling down with a nice Jewish girl. Huffman’s Helen can’t help but heave her expectations of what a gay son should be onto Paul (Lacy) and Carol’s (Bassett) unresolved issues with her deceased husband is interfering with her relationship with her own son (Walls).
None of the characters are likable. Sure, the sons are forgetful, busy living and navigating their own lives, but the film does little to establish the lives of the mothers. Besides a few throwaway lines about Carol working at a retirement home part-time and Gillian teaching piano lessons, there is no indication that any of these mature female character’s have a rich personal life and have an unhealthy obsession with their sons. This would make sense and even work if the film’s resolution had any effect but it doesn’t. The mothers are constantly crossing boundaries, not in a fun way, and the sons seem oblivious to their own disregard and disrespect towards their moms. It is kind of poetic to watch Felicity Huffman play an overbearing mother, constantly overstepping boundaries with her son, considering the actress’s own involvement in the college bribery scandal. However, despite this coincidence and Bassett and Arquette providing decent performances despite what they are given, Otherhood feels tired and overdone.
If Otherhood was made in the 90’s, it might have been at least entertaining, maybe even groundbreaking with its caricature of LGBT representation. Instead it seems trite, the relationships and characters based on troupes and void of any authenticity.
Rating: 1.5 of out 5