Because I Said So
Director : Michael Lehmann
Screenplay : Karen Leigh Hopkins & Jessie Nelson
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2007
Stars : Diane Keaton (Daphne), Mandy Moore (Milly), Gabriel Macht (Johnny), Tom Everett Scott (Jason), Lauren Graham (Maggie), Piper Perabo (Mae), Stephen Collins (Joe), Ty Panitz (Lionel), Matt Champagne (Eli), Colin Ferguson (Derek), Tony Hale (Stuart)
Because I Said So is a desperate comedy whose frequently acute insights into tense, but loving mother-daughter relationships is constantly hamstrung by ill-advised forays into physical humor and too much reliance on Diane Keaton's mania. Keaton trades a little too heavily on the high-strung, controlling persona she has honed in recent years, most notably in The Other Sister (1999), Hanging Up (2000), and The Family Stone (2005). It is a truism in Hollywood that women of a certain age have more and more trouble finding juicy roles, and while Keaton has often found interesting work that makes good on both her beauty and acting prowess, she is now officially in danger of being typecast as the aging female control freak.
In Because I Said So Keaton plays Daphne Wilder, who has successfully raised three daughters on her own. Now that they are all adults, it would seem that Daphne's overt motherly obligations would subside, but one of the points the movie makes is that parenting never ends, especially when one of the daughters is not, in Daphne's mind, quite finished. "Finished" means, of course, finding a man, and while the two older daughters, Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo), are both successfully wed, the youngest, Milly (Mandy Moore), is not. In fact, not only is she not married, but she has a horrible track record with men, most of whom turn out to be louts, married, or gay.
So, what's a mother to do but take out a personal ad and handpick a suitor for her daughter (without said daughter's knowledge, of course). After a tiresome montage of lame-duck suitors, Daphne picks Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a refined, educated, well-bred architect. Milly is more than happy to be the object of Jason's affection, although she is just as happy to be pursued by Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a down-to-earth musician and single father who Daphne immediately pegs as a heartbreaker. Why? Because he's a musician and that's what musicians do. Another of the movie's lessons is that books shouldn't be judged by their covers, even though some covers are quite telling (when Jason volunteers that he's a workaholic and shows early signs of a controlling nature, Daphne conveniently ignores them).
The core of the screenplay by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson (both of whom contributed to writing the 1998 schmaltz-fest Stepmom) is quite interesting, but the execution of the material is frequently botched by director Michael Lehmann, who seems to have lost all his comic edge in the years since his brilliantly dark teen satire Heathers (1989). Whenever comic opportunity knocks, Lehmann answers with big, bold, slapsticky scenes that are intended, I suppose, to counterbalance all the touchy-feely mother-daughter feuding and bonding that fills the rest of the movie.
Thus, we get not one, but two scenes involving Daphne either dropping or getting hit in the face with a huge cake (there is also a third scene involving a huge cake being dropped on a suicidal fussbudget played by Tony Hale, but that's a whole other story). There is also the scene in which Daphne is trying to access a dating web site and accidentally gets stuck on an adult web site instead, complete with a live video feed and very loud moaning that continues unabated while she tries to call the computer help line. The joke is mildly funny in that it represents a recognizable pitfall of Internet surfing, but it goes on too long and also requires Daphne to suddenly drop dozens of IQ points. After all, are we really supposed to believe that a women sophisticated enough to use a computer for a dating service wouldn't at least know how to turn down the volume on said computer or unplug it, rather than running around the room in a tizzy because she's trapped by porn? Maybe we are, just because the filmmakers say so.
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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