Review by Michael Jacobson
Brooks, Debbie Reynolds, Rob Morrow
Director: Albert Brooks
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2001
ďTHATíS a lot of cheese!Ē
Iíve always looked on Albert Brooks as kind of a poor
manís Woody Allen. Iíve liked
some of his films, but not all of them. He
can be very funny in his observations, and when his humor is based on truth,
itís usually impeccable. But he
canít always resist the urge to go for the cheap and banal joke, and no laugh
is worthwhile when it takes you back out of the story.
Mother has to be one of his more successful films
because itís much more of the former and considerably less of the latter.
As an actor, he found in the wonderfully effervescent Debbie Reynolds a
perfect chemistry: her timing is razor sharp, and her subtle digs make for a
hilarious contrast to Brooksí exaggerated neurosis. Now that Iím in my thirties, I think I can appreciate this
kind of movie a little more, especially after having a second lengthy
conversation with my father this past weekend where I tried to explain that when
you use a check card at an ATM, you donít have to pay it back and youíre not
accruing interest on it. Iím
getting ready for round three next weekend as we speak.
Brooks plays John Henderson, a 40 year old writer with
relationship issues. As the picture
opens, heís finalizing his second divorce.
Left with an empty room and two pieces of furniture he shuffles around
pointlessly, he begins to wonder about his problem with women, and he comes to a
conclusion: he canít hope to be
successful with them until heís made his relationship with his mother
(Reynolds) a success. So, he drives
400 miles to her house and moves back into his old room. ďIím so glad youíre here,Ē she says to him.
ďNow, tell me again why you canít stay at a hotel?Ē
The best aspect of the film is the one-on-one dynamic
between John and his mother. Mrs.
Henderson is hardly the exaggerated smothering monster most comedies make
mothers out to be. Sheís a sweet
thing who just happens to say and do all the right things to punch Johnís
buttons. When the two take a trip
to the grocery store together, it is one of the single funniest scenes Iíve
ever watched. Iím smiling right
now as I write just remembering it.
The comedy flows naturally from the reality of the
situation, and itís perfect. When
it fails is when Brooks reaches back for that little something extra.
There is a big outdoor scene staged where John loudly proclaims to his
younger brother (Morrow) that heís having sex with his mother.
I chuckled at the absurdity, but at the same time, it temporarily removed
me from the moment: I couldnít
believe for one second that a grown man would actually do something like that.
Still, the distractions are few and far between, and the
only other major complaint is the ending, which boasts not one, but TWO
contrivances that are so neatly wrapped up and packaged that the movie lost a
great deal in about ten minutes.
But whatís great about the movie far outweighs its
problems. As an actor, even a comic
one, I can usually take or leave Albert Brooks, but here, I couldnít get
enough of his sparkling scenes with Debbie Reynolds.
Her sweetness and subtlety were a perfect foil to his sometimes
uncontrolled rantings. She helped
reel him in just enough to keep his character grounded, instead of an
all-too-typical Brooks caricature. And
thereís not an instance of dialogue between them that seems comically forced.
Every word is true to life, and will no doubt have many an audience
member thinking about conversations with their own mothers over the years.
In short, Mother is a sweet, funny, good-natured
Valentine to moms everywhere. Letís
not forget the maddening, wonderful little things they do that make us
crazyÖbecause nobody will ever love us as much as that.
This is a very good anamorphic offering from Paramount.
Images are sharp and crystal clear throughout, from brighter settings to
low lit ones, and colors render very beautifully and very naturally.
Detail is strong throughout from the foreground to background, and I
noticed no picture complaints save for a miniscule touch of grain in a few
shotsÖnothing distracting. Overall,
a very worthy effort.
I opted for the 5.1 soundtrack, which was very serviceable,
but as you might expect, unspectacular. I
didnít really notice anything happening on the rear stage at all, nor much
call for the .1 channel, but the front stage was very well presented, with
crisp, clear dialogue and music, and a fairly good use of the breadth of the 3
channels. Being that this is a
character and dialogue oriented film, thereís really not much more you could
ask for from the audio.
Only a trailer.
Mother is a comic gem that succeeds far more than it falls short. Co-writer, director and star Albert Brooks offers one of the best films of his career by exploring the richly comical and very real relationship between grown children and the women who brought them up. He and Debbie Reynolds are a delightfully perfect screen duo, and the laughs are plenty and rewarding. Share this DVD experience with your mother. Just donít sit too close to the TV set, or youíll ruin your eyesÖ