Directed by Cindy Chupack
Starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, Felicity Huffman
Streaming on Netflix
“Otherhood,” a wobbly but well-acted new Netflix comedy about middle-aged empty-nesters, offers a telling reminder that it’s actually not all in the timing. It’s all in the writing.
At their annual just-us-neglected-moms Mother’s Day brunch, three well-off suburban besties — played by Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman — seethe over their chronically inattentive adult sons, who’ve been pals since childhood.
“At this stage,” one mom grouses, “it doesn’t feel like motherhood. It feels like otherhood.” Get it? Hence, the title of this ediocre ovie.
What to do? Drive to New York City, where the guys live, and demand quality time. So it goes in this adaptation of William Sutcliffe’s book, “Whatever Makes You Happy.” Soon, nobody’s happy. Not the sons. Or the moms, who eventually turn on each other.
Postponed from a pre-Mother’s Day April release to August amid Huffman’s role in the college admissions scandal, the maternal holiday framework now carries cobwebs. But more nagging is that the script, co-written by director Cindy Chupack, of “Sex and the City,” is clumsy and clichéd.
Good performances by the three leads can’t fix that, but they deserve credit for adding dimension to stick figures. Bassett plays Carol, a widow who goes from dowdy to rowdy and, absurdly, crashes the private work party of her art-director son Matt (Sinqua Walls). Arquette keeps it low-key as the long-married Gillian, who tries to tell her aspiring writer son Daniel (Jake Hoffman, Dustin’s kid) how to run his love life. Huffman acts up as the remarried, self-concerned Carol, who hates that her gay window-dresser son Paul (Jake Lacy) has a better relationship with his dad, her ex, than with her.
By turns formulaic, far-fetched and facile in the way it handles thorny issues, the movie plods along to a feel-good fade-out. “Mother isn’t just a noun, it’s a verb,” one mom has observed by then. “It requires action.” “Otherhood” required a rewrite.