Mothers and Daughters (2016): Mellow-Drama (Review)

Selma Blair in Mothers and Daughters

In many ways Mothers and Daughters should have been a  runaway chick flick hit.  It had a bevy of very talented and beautiful actresses in the lead roles and all have chops for days.  A cast that featured two Oscar winners and one Oscar nominee should have been near perfect.  However the film is more mellow-drama than flat out drama and felt little more than a television “movie of the week.”

The performances were well above adequate, but the storylines were, perhaps, too many to focus on properly.  Thematically too, the film could have been problematic. Daughters and mothers do have very prickly relationships, quite possibly the film hit too close to home for the females in the audience.

Another problem could have been a lack of eye candy for the ladies. Christopher Backus (who has been rocking it as Rick in Showtimes’ Roadies and is the real-life spouse of Mira Sorvino) was not onscreen for long at all. The same fate befell Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. regular Luke Mitchell. (Not only does Mitchell  have even less screen time than Backus, his character turns out to be  bit of a rotter.)

Mothers and Daughters is an anthology film, which means several storylines, or vignettes are meant to be linked by a common thread.  The movie starts with Rigby (Selma Blair) photographing singer Nelson Quinn.

She is a professional photographer who specializes in musicians.   Rigby writes a letter to her mother about her youth and discovery of passion for picture taking. (Natalie Burn plays the young Rigby’s mother.)

Mira Sorvino’s character Georgina is seen next with her boyfriend  Sebastian. Sharon Stone plays a fashion magnate whose daughter has more in common with Georgina than with her own mother.

Courteney Cox  and Christina Ricci have relationship that feels like the female version of Jack Nicholson’s upbringing. 

Susan Sarandon plays opposite her real-life daughter Eva Amurri Martino in a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo. Although Ms. Sarandon rocks her few seconds on camera. 

Directed by Paul Duddridge and Nigel Levy (Duddridge provided concept that Paige Cameron based the screenplay on.) the film tries to cram too much drama into a 90 minute time frame.  But for all the different storylines the overall feeling of the film’s tone is tepid versus tragic.

Blair (A personal favorite since “discovering her” in “Hellboy.”)  has an interesting arc and plays a character we can get behind.  Actually all the characters are “likable” per se but none of them get enough screen time for the audience to really connect with them.

Mothers and Daughters is, in essence, a drawing room drama. One heavy with dialogue and, except for the Cox/Ricci storyline, pretty normal.

A woman has the child she gave up for adoption get in contact with her.  Another gets pregnant and must decide if she wants an abortion or not.  Yet another learns something about her mother that shakes her to the core.

Despite having performers who are brilliant at their craft, each vignette spends too little time on the respective storylines. We never really get a chance to warm to any of the characters.

It is Rigby that we really connect with but that may well be down to her particular storyline and Blair’s portrayal of a woman who lost touch with her mother.

This is not a bad film, far from it, it is just not a great one.  At 90 minutes it is not overly long nor is it boring.  The pace is a little up and down, mostly down, but overall it still entertains.

There are moments where the viewer may need to grab for the tissue box, but not many.

Anthology films, when done properly, like “Love Actually” for instance, are good value for money.  However, this film just does not quite deliver, even with such a capable cast.

On the bright side, Sharon Stone looks brilliant and proves that she can still act, despite the travesty of her role in Agent X.  Blair is endearing, as is Sorvino.

Mothers and Daughters is a solid 3 star film.  Not bad, nowhere near it, but nothing to prompt repeated viewings either. The film is streaming on Netflix right now. Head on over and check it out. Until then take a look at the trailer below.

Horizon: Science Fiction Web Series is Cracking Entertainment

Steven and Chloe see the ship

Paul Dudbridge is, in essence, the English Robert Rodriguez of science fiction webisodes with his cottage industry approach. Directing, co-writing, co-editing, producing and working as cinematographer on what is obviously a labour of love. The end result is Horizon, a 10 part web series (with the tagline: In 2015 Everything Changes) which follows the  journey of five people who are affected by the sudden appearance of spaceship over Bristol.  The series starts on 5 October, 2015 and from the first frame, the viewer is caught up in the events on screen.

Starring, Paul Tonkin, Simon Pierce (who also co-wrote the series along with Paul and Chris Marshfield), Kate Marie DaviesCassandra Charlick, Alicia Ancel, Kessie Bartlett and Jason Allen, the webisodes, that run from four to 10 minutes in length, look brilliant and the acting,  based upon a pre-screening of the first three episodes, is spot on. Combined with exceptional CGI effects this is compelling viewing. 

Each segment moves quickly and contains a “bit of business” from certain characters and a bit of action.  (There appears to be a “hidden” thread as well, keen eyed viewers will notice a small mark…) The  webisodes project a sense of realism, from the use of ITV real-life newscaster Ian Axton (who also played a newscaster for the superlative ITV drama Broadchurch) to the “everyman” characters we watch attempting to come to grips with the “invasion” and their efforts to escape the threat.

Other “bits” includes Davies’ character Nicole, after being helped from the wrecked car by Steven, she grabs her cell (mobile) phone and after checking it, leans close to Steven, peers closely at his mouth and asks, somewhat accusingly, “Have you been drinking?” Positively brilliant bit of business that had this viewer chuckling and nodding while acknowledging that if one were in Steven’s place, it would be so annoying from his point of view.

Later on, Dudbridge uses the cell phone as a scene enhancer and as a sign of just how much the smart phone has become an essential part of our lives. The  scene shows that these bits of modern technology control us as well.  In the same setting, on top of a carpark where Steven’s younger sister Katie is hanging with her hoodie mates watching the spaceship, when the alien craft defends itself against attacking aircraft, the device shows us what the aliens used; EMP.

This is science fiction presented on an intimate level yet it feels big. The airliner,  the escalation of events and  that huge alien spaceship hovering over Bristol. Entertainment that delivers enough impressive set pieces to raise goosebumps on the viewer.  After the spacecraft sets off the EMP blast there is a jet airliner that comes zooming into the frame, just over the fleeing hoodies.  The aircraft is so low that it causes the snotty Katie and big brother Steven to duck for cover. For such short blasts of entertainment this is a wonderful bit of business.

Steven, Dan, Chloe and Nicole set out to gather supplies, and Katie, in order to escape to the  country.  Despite the shortness of the episodes, the characters are clearly defined and their interactions with one another are revealing.

The cinematography is  spot on and, for once, the sound is perfect. The actors are not drowned out by the soundtrack and the “foley” effects do not override the action. The blend of ambient sound along with the dialogue is just right.

Horizon is cracking entertainment that leaves the viewer ready for more. Dudbridge has said there will be a second season if all goes according to plan. These type of shows are what the Internet could have been invented for. Slick, polished and feeling like a big budget production with some stand out acting from the cast, this is magic in a web series.

The cast of Horizon

Horizon starts 5 October and for more information about the show, the crew, the cast and the story head over to horizonwebseries.com. Like the tagline says, “In 2015 everything changes,” check out the series site and see why.

 

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