For ninety minutes
Mother & Child, and what disappoints me is that the trapping of the stories prevent the brilliance of the performances from being adequately highlighted, because Annette Bening, Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts give three of the most eclectic performances I’ve seen all year.
If Garcia’s screenplay holds any worth as a paradigm for other writers, it stands as proof that a good screenplay does not comprise good lines only. It’s strange, few lines in Mother & Child emerge as disingenuous until you're met with an unlikely soliloquy here or there that seems like it's from a completely different film; moreover his story-structure is so lacking the film feels awkwardly truncated at times. Rodrigo Garcia’s creation seems especially unimaginative at times, which is stressed because in theory the playing field he has available is wide. But, I’m appreciative of his attempts for in all its occasional banality Mother & Child has searing moments, and Garcia is a much more astute director than he is a writer. I’ve reached the point where I’m well aware of the “injustices” of awards’ season, but it still seems ridiculous that comments on the Oscar “race” continue and nary a performance from the three protagonists of this drama are being tossed around. It only puts the harsh reality of these laurels into perspective.
Kerry Washington was the biggest surprise because I’ve been waiting so long for her to get a role worthy of her obvious potential and she brings such poignancy to her expectant mother it’s such a please to know that the promise of talent she’s been showing for so long has been made good on (even if no one cares to notice), and Naomi Watts pulls off a character that in theory shouldn’t work, especially for her. And, of course, Annette... Bening will always be striking for her ability to get in touch with abrasive characters and Karen’s outward prickliness is measured beautifully against her internal securities. I am smitten with her, but there are moments where it’s especially impressive watching her inhibit the character. I almost feel as if she and her co-stars do the film more justice than it deserves, because when it ends I have that palpable feeling that I’ve been played.
It Mother & Child is emotionally manipulative, but it’s worth the manipulation if only to see performances – from the trimester of ladies all the way to Jimmy Smitts and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson is so easily represent of the BAMF it's something satisfying to see him reign it all in and deliver a perfectly controlled performance. And it's so interesting how Cherry Jones' nun, forever on the outlines manages to carve a chracter that seems decidedly three-dimensional. Garcia might not be the wisest storyteller, but his ability to find the right way to bring out the good in his actors is something worth praising – even if it’s grudgingly.