By Ann Silverthorn
What is it about mothers in film? Walt Disney often did away with them, devastating the protagonists (like Bambi). In many other films, moms are responsible for their children’s general angst and irritation. Perhaps it’s because the mother role is universal that so much weight is assigned to her. Here are seven films that take serious, satirical, comedic, and heartwarming looks at motherhood.
When Mildred Pierce’s (Kate Winslet) marriage falls apart, she must find a way to support her two young daughters in Depression-era Los Angeles. After successfully selling her tasty pies to local eateries, she finds a way to open her own fried chicken-and-waffle restaurant. Oh, the calories!
Although extremely busy with her business life, she also indulges her daughters. The eldest daughter, Veda, is a narcissistic and extremely spoiled social climber who does not appreciate her mother's efforts at all, seeing work as something for "common" people and beneath her. This is a remake of the 1945 film featuring Joan Crawford (she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role). Both versions are available on DVD Netflix.
This is a star-studded ensemble movie with multiple story lines that weave together in a clever way. As Mother’s Day approaches, we follow the lives of a divorced mother, an unmarried new mother, the daughters of a judgmental mother, a woman who has no desire to be a mother, and a man whose two daughters recently lost their mother. Jennifer Anniston, Kate Hudson, and Julia Roberts play the major roles. You’ll find a nicely balanced mix of laughter and tears in this film.
The complicated relationships between mothers and daughters is the theme in this film, which explores unplanned pregnancy, estranged mother and daughters, overbearing mothers, and lost daughters. The ensemble cast includes Selma Blair, Courteney Cox, Christina Ricci, and Susan Sarandon. Thick tension between Sarandon and her real-life daughter Eva Amurri Martino, achieved through video chat, expertly mirrors what many mothers go through as they walk on thin ice with the daughters they only want to please.
This film looks at pregnancy through the five couples played by an ensemble cast. Almost every situation related to reproducing is covered in this movie, including infertility and adoption. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, and Elizabeth Banks take the leads, but what’s refreshing is the treatment of the paternal role in pregnancy. The regular meetings of the “Dudes’ Group” gives us a humorous look on what goes on in dads’ heads.
When Lori’s newly widowed mom moves from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to her, Lori (Rose Byrne) finds herself conflicted between encouraging her mother (Susan Sarandon) and maintaining her own independence. Marnie, the quirky mother, makes herself at home but soon, to Lori’s amazement, she’s carved out her own life, independent from her daughter.
What happens when a wife and mother chases her dreams as a rock-and-roll guitarist instead of making a home for her kids? In this case, the kids aren’t fans and they don’t exactly welcome Ricki (Meryl Streep) years later when she tries to reconnect. Ricki must also deal with her ex-husband’s wife, who has been doing her job as mother to the kids for all these years.
Many women embark on their maternal adventure with gusto, trying to do their job to perfection while not feeling that they measure up to their peers. In this comedy, three exhausted suburban moms hit the wall and decide to let loose. It’s liberated moms against the PTA-perfection clique, and after a hotly contested race for PTA president, both sides find out that they have more in common than they thought. Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell play the bad moms and Christina Applegate takes the lead for the PTA posse.
Which mom movies are your favorites? For me, of these seven movies, it’s difficult for me to pick a favorite, but I’d say the one that I’d be willing to watch over and over would be Mildred Pierce. It’s so dramatic and because it’s presented in multiple episodes, by the end, I feel like I’ve been part of Mildred’s life. It also shows the strength and resiliency of mothers, especially the ones who lived through the Depression.