Motherhood: No, Uma, No

Casting against type is one thing, but putting Uma Thurman—an unheralded character actress; the more extraordinary the character, the better—in the role of an unkempt New York City mom goes against the cinematic gods. And the gods are angry at Motherhood, writer/director Katherine Dieckmann’s ode to the trials of Manhattan’s downwardly mobile, breeding bourgeoisie. Uma, in a scruffy brown wig and dingy housedress, has been cursed with a mannered “comic” performance and that funky, flutey elocution she uses when she’s trying to speak like a real person. Thurman plays Eliza, the mother of two young children and wife of a hapless editor (Anthony Edwards). Together they live the kind of shabby-groovy life—ruled by preschool pickups and parking shenanigans—familiar to half of Brooklyn. Dieckmann nails the look of a certain niche of urban neo-middle-class living, but the film’s hyper-earnest tone and reliance on “day-from-hell” New York clichés overwhelm those details. Eliza, formerly known for her “fiercely lyrical fiction,” wants to win a mommy-blog contest because “nobody talks about this stuff.” Alas, the deadline for the contest looms as several major dramas unfold, including the organizing of a kiddie birthday party and Eliza’s swift, bloggy betrayal of a fellow mom’s confidence about using her son’s bath toy as a dildo.