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Chasing that illusive Pretty Woman success

How much longer Garry Marshall can carry on churning out the same film is anybody’s guess

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

Chasing that illusive  Pretty Woman success

Mother’s Day (12A)
Running time 1hr 58mins
Rating: *

IN Pretty Woman, director Garry Marshall struck upon a magic formula that he’s been trying to recreate ever since. The 1990
rags-to-riches, knight-in-shining-armour tale about a down-on-her-luck call girl rescued from a life of vice by a millionaire businessman was a hit with audiences. It brought the right amount of chemistry between the leads – a top-of-his-game Richard Gere and a newly-discovered Julia Roberts – and combined them with a great soundtrack and spot-on supporting cast including Laura San Giacomo, Larry Miller, Jason Alexander and Hector Elizondo. Almost every movie Marshall has made since has been at pains to harness that – and he’s never achieved it.

Mother’s Day is the latest in his series of romantic comedy-dramas based around minor dates of the calendar. It started with Valentine’s Day in 2010, which was followed by New Year’s Eve in 2011. Now here we are in 2016 with a story based around Mother’s Day. The film, like its forerunners, takes an ensemble cast and several stories and weaves them together into a whole. This one even casts Julia Roberts and Hector Elizondo, for goodness sake, and gives them a scene that directly references the 1990 classic. Roberts is Miranda, the steely TV star-cum-jewellery designer in Atlanta for a meet and greet, where young couple, new mum Kristin (Britt Robertson) and struggling stand-up comic Zack (Jack Whitehall), live. He’s desperate to marry her but there’s something stopping her and she’s not saying what. Fellow mum Jesse (Kate Hudson) meanwhile is estranged from her bigoted Texas-based parents who she’s afraid won’t accept her mixed-race marriage. Her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) is guilty of hiding her same-sex marriage for similar reasons. Jesse’s friend Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) on the other hand finds herself struggling to accept the situation when ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) announces his marriage to the children’s new 20-something stepmum, and single father Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) finds it difficult to come to terms with his wife’s death.

The film’s tone is horribly patronising, thinking it’s doing the opposite to what it actually does: at best, this is pigeonholing two-
dimensional characters and reinforcing stereotypes. Aniston is the woman still holding a torch for her ex-husband who’s traded her in for a younger model, while Julia Roberts is the woman who’s traded her private life for a career. It’s casually racist and homophobic despite featuring a storyline that outwardly conveys a message of acceptance. Some of the film is sweet in its manipulative, Hollywood way but while there are elements of Richard Curtis territory trodden here, Marshall isn’t able to channel the British director’s influence with anything near the same amount of charm. How much longer Garry Marshall is able to carry on getting away with churning out the same film over and over is anybody’s guess but with them getting progressively worse, audiences will most likely make their feelings known soon enough.

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