Advertisements ad

November 8, 2009

Thurman too classy for frazzled

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP


“Motherhood,” starring Uma Thurman as Eliza, a 40-something aspiring writer living in trendy Brooklyn with her husband, Avery (Anthony Edwards), and two small children, examines the modern, or timeless, conflicting desires of, well, mothers with small children. What did filmmaker Katherine Dieckmann do with this conundrum. Whither feminism? New solutions? Did she avoid clichés and tired depictions of tired mommies? Any theology of the body?

“Motherhood” foundered from the start. Although throwing herself into the role of pleasantly frazzled Eliza, Uma is just too classy and elegant to pull it off. And don’t expect any high drama here.

Eliza is happily married and adores her adorable kiddos. The film’s tone is uneven, scenes are in need of serious editing and it’s hard to buy that Eliza was ever actually stressed.

The theme, question and thread throughout is: “What is motherhood?” or rather, “What does Eliza think motherhood is?” She must answer this question for a Mommy blog contest she’s entering — if she ever gets enough time to sit down and write.

So, when does “Motherhood” get good? When Eliza and her husband have a heart-to-heart. Eliza can only really define herself in relation to him and the kids and vice versa. Here’s an important point for feminists: Men, husbands and fathers also define themselves in relationship to women (or should).

When Eliza is envying Avery’s seemingly easier life, he reminds her of all the sacrifices fatherhood requires of him, his own dashed dreams and how they made their decisions together to lead the life they’re living.

Today’s women are smart. They are grappling with the often unattainable dreams of having it all and the requirements of motherhood. Many women are unapologetically opting out of the workplace to be stay-at-home mothers, at least while their children are young. When Clara begs her Mom not to get a “real job,” Eliza asks her why it’s OK for daddies but not mommies. Her daughter answers: “Because daddies just do some things, but mommies do everything.”

It’s a serious concern that “Motherhood” raises: How do women retain some time for themselves, maintain a personal creative outlet within “ridiculously tiny wedges of time”? Theology of the body is evident in the mutuality of Eliza and Avery’s relationship. But “Motherhood” is nonplussed about how to deal with sex. Sex is somewhat trivialized, but with longing and intuition that maybe there’s more to it.

Ultimately, motherhood is not a career, it’s a relationship. It’s family.

Burns, who ministers in Chicago, has a philosophy/theology degree from St. John’s University, N.Y., and studied screenwriting at the University of California.