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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Because I Said So

Is there any more annoying phrase a parent can bestow upon a child than the dictatorial Because I Said So? Yet for reasons that are seemingly inexplicable that is the title the public relations folks at Universal stuck with for this comedy starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore now playing at the Essex Cinemas. I’d have called the studio myself to ask how they ever came to the conclusion to name the movie what they did, but I’m sure whoever I ended up talking to would tell me it was “Because I Said So.” Heck, that’s what I’d say. It’s too easy a comeback not to use. What they should have named this is “Sex and the City: The Movie (but with a different cast)."

This really is SATC whether writer Michael Lehmann (tv’s “Big Love”) realizes it or not. He was meant to channel the girls from the tv show because he definitely has a love for woman-speak and that includes the ubiquitous talking about shoes and orgasms, both of which make up large portions of the dialogue in this chick flick extraordinaire.

Because I Said So doesn’t cover much new ground that SATC hasn’t already done, but it does play what it has for broad laughs and succeeds on most counts. Diane Keaton (The Family Stone), as mother Daphne, is approaching her 60th birthday with the grace of Dick Cheney explaining his negative views on gay parenthood for everyone except his lesbian daughter Mary, who has apparently immaculately conceived a child and is pregnant at this moment. Daphne, like Cheney, is not a happy camper, and so she directs her attentions on her daughters Maggie (Lauren Graham; tv’s “Gilmore Girls”), Mae (Piper Perabo; The Prestige), and, most notably, youngest daughter Millie (Mandy Moore; American Dreamz), the only one of her three girls not yet married. Lucky Millie, she’s got a personal matchmaker who is up to all kinds of tricks she doesn’t even know about.

Without telling Millie, Daphne places an extravagant personal ad on-line in
search of a life partner for the creative caterer and even goes so far as to interview dozens of candidates before finding the one she wants to “accidentally” meet her child in the hope of starting a romance. She sets Millie up on a date the girl doesn’t even know she’s having, and then buys her a dress to wear so her lucky bachelor will be able to spot her in the crowd.

Mom’s meddling inevitably leads to problems when Daphne’s idea of the
“perfect” man (really much more in line with her own tastes and interests) connects with Millie and Daphne practically steamrolls over Millie to make sure the romance flourishes. Oh sure, Jason (Tom Everett Scott; tv’s “Saved”) is a terrific catch. He’s extremely rich, bright, connected to all the right people, good-looking, well-traveled, and is quickly ready to make a commitment to Millie. Unfortunately, he is also controlling, has a short temper and Millie hasn’t got a bit of chemistry with him. Instead, she is falling hard for Johnny (Gabriel Macht; The Good Shepherd), a nice enough guy, but her mother’s nightmare. Johnny is the divorced Dad of a pre-schooler, and he is a musician by trade who shares an apartment with his father, Joe (Stephen Collins; tv’s “7th Heaven” ). Johnny is not exactly burning the world up with his success, but he and Millie seem to have achieved an instantaneous harmonic connection. So naturally something has to screw that up.

Herein lies Daphne’s greatest challenge, and it really does lead to a pertinent lesson which both generations may appreciate. While the jokes flow freely
and border on slapstick, ultimately the serious underlying message is about loving and letting go. Daphne tells her daughters that mothers have what she calls "impossible love" because it is so hard to step back and watch their kids head for the edge of a proverbial cliff and not to stop them, even when they are all grown up. Her challenge is to accept the fact that not every decision is a potentially life or death disaster-producing opportunity for her to step in nor is it appreciated. That doesn’t mean she is any less loved. And as for her girls? They need to see their mother as a woman instead of just as a “mother” and recognize that her motivations may come from her own misplaced needs. In other words, ahem, they need to be okay with the fact that Mom needs to get laid too. Fortunately, there is love enough to go around in this fluffy soufflé to makes sure everybody is fulfilled. Well, almost everybody. Don’t expect Millie to be a bigamist by the end of the film.

Guys are going to drag their feet on wanting to see this one. Who can blame them? It is definitely the Super Bowl alternative and was released on the same weekend as the Big Game for that very reason, practically as a
valentine to the anti-football crowd, i.e., women wanting to flee the house full of screaming, grunting men going wild over what’s happening on the tv. Still, if you do manage to fill the seat next to you with your favorite bundle of testosterone (or you happen to be a bundle of testosterone reading this) you’ll be surprised to find that the humor is mature enough (but not dirty) and clever enough to keep everybody chuckling at something.

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