Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Who wouldn’t want Annette Bening (American Beauty) and Julianne Moore (Children of Men) for mothers? Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (Lauren Canyon) brings this perfect pairing to reality in a tender, honest and wonderfully funny portrait of a modern family. Fastidious medico Nic (Bening) and her more free spirited partner Jules (Moore) have been together for decades and have each born a child using the same donor sperm. This happy, loving and suitably idiosyncratic family is disrupted when 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) succumbs to her younger brother Laser’s (Josh Hutcherson) wishes to track down their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo).
Domesticity, sexuality and the ‘pleasures’ of parenthood are all depicted with frank humour and humanity, both through Cholodenko’s beautifully warm and wry script and in the perfectly cast performances. Bening and Moore are luminous together, able to nitpick as easily as cherish, while Ruffalo’s awkward timing is spot on and Wasikowska can do angsty teen better than anyone in the business. The broader context of what must be the first-generation of homosexual couples raising a family is noted within the film, but does not get in the way of what is essentially a superbly grounded and touchingly candid look at love. Indeed the irony of the film’s title soon becomes evident, where Joni and Laser’s coming of age is far less tumultuous than Nic and Jules’ attempts to navigate their relationship, or Paul coming to terms with the man and the potential father he now longs to be.
Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date (theatrical): 2 September 2010
***Update: To read David Edelstein's fabulous review in New York Magazine, click HERE.
***Ditto Dana Stevens' review (and Spoiler Special!) on Slate.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives) challenges the intractable bond between mother and child in a compelling triptych of regret and redemption. With tour-de-force performances from Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, Garcia teases out the trials and tribulations of adoption and the profound and prevailing consequences for all.
After being forced to give up her daughter of a teenage pregnancy, Karen (Bening) is a broken woman. Blunt and bristly, her unlikable personality belies a desperate loneliness and unspoken grief, which slowly, painstakingly begins to heal when she meets Paco (Jimmy Smits). Elizabeth (Watts) is her biological daughter, and, although the two have never met, Elizabeth shares her mother’s assertive character, which manifests in a steely professionalism and a dominating nature that sees her coolly seduce both her boss (Samuel L. Jackson) and her next door neighbour (Marc Blucas). Meanwhile, Lucy (Washington) is desperate to adopt a baby and must navigate all manner of doubts to fulfill this yearning need.
It is a tribute to Garcia’s talents and casting that this dense, multi-narrative story plays out so clearly and affectingly. Watts and Bening are absolutely electric in their complimentary roles, and although Washington’s character is comparatively less nuanced, she still brings depth and humanity to what could easily have devolved into a caricature of a hysterical, barren woman. Although some of the writing is a bit earnest and a few subplots unnecessary, Mother and Child is a powerful parable that uses the most primal of bonds to uncover the aching abyss of regret and the fundamental human need for connection.
Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 17 June 2010
Also worth checking out is the great Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast with Garcia, Jackson and producer Julie Lynn.