'Motherhood' Movie Director Dishes

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Celeb Parents, In The News, New In Pop Culture

"Motherhood" director Katherine Dieckmann told ParentDish how she felt about making a movie about the misery of the job. Here's what Dieckmann had to say, in her own words ...



When I started writing "Motherhood," a movie I also directed, which opens today, I never imagined some fictionalized version of myself being incarnated by Uma Thurman. I think moms everywhere might agree how very distant that concept seems when you're washing vomit-stained sheets after staying up all night with a sick child, or when you're trying to take an unexpected work call from home without ever letting anyone on the other end realize the kids are in the next room being medicated by "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Yet for all her allure and fact that she can work a snug yellow jumpsuit like nobody's business, Uma Thurman is also -- like anyone committed to the creatures they choose to bring into this world -- fundamentally and before all else, a mother. One of the universal truths I hope "Motherhood" conveys is that many mothers experience the same things that both Uma and her decidedly less glamorous character Eliza does -- the questioning of identity, the proverbial struggle for balance, and the acute melancholy that accompanies watching your children grow up and away from you.

Up until now, no movie has focused solely on the day-to-day challenges faced by many mothers, who strive to retain some sense of self-worth and personal motivation while drowning in domestic duty. The very phrase "a motherhood movie" can induce eye-rolls in those who consider maternal issues beside the point. And, in fact, we've been well-trained to look down on moms in movies, who tend to fall into rigid and predictable categories: Hapless, drunk, manipulative, depressed, icy or unrealistically cheerful and selfless. I wanted to create a mother who is simultaneously loving, pissed off, frantic, dedicated, funny, sad, defeated and optimistic -- all those human shades coexisting in one complicated being.

So I decided to write about motherhood from my own admittedly idiosyncratic experience, raising two kids in two 5th floor walk-up apartments in New York's West Village. There is definitely something a little anthropological in the approach, from the daunting "to do" list that greets our tired mother first thing in the morning to encounters with the overzealous maternal types often encountered at the neighborhood playground -- including the hovering or "helicopter" mom, the politically-correct post-hippie mom, and the mindlessly overpraising mom. ("Good sharing, Courtney! I am so proud of you for your excellent sharing!")

For me, simply to show these funny-challenging aspects of a mother's daily life was the goal, and to try to do it with humor and insight and the small shifts in consciousness that one really horrible, no-good day can help create. It's not that I think my own life is so fascinating or even especially difficult. I'm not a coal miner or trying to raise my kids in a famine, though I do know what it's like to not have a lot of money starting out with a baby, to clip coupons for diapers and to yearn for childcare that was simply not affordable for my family at the time.

I wanted to bring those pressures to bear on Uma's character, Eliza, who stays home with her toddler partly for financial reasons, although later in "Motherhood" you learn from her husband, beautifully played by Anthony Edwards, that she's not the only one who's given up something to support having a family. Being a grown up of necessity involves the sacrifice of a dream or two, and in "Motherhood" you see those costs very clearly, as well as the joyful benefits of raising children, which is, at the end of the day, a privilege as enormous as it is fleeting.

And that, by the way, is why a star like Uma Thurman decided to drab down and dye her luminous blond locks reddish-brown and put on glasses and wear the same dress on set for the duration of our "Motherhood" shoot -- because even a celebrity experiences compromises and has to strive to sort out her identity under the sometimes overwhelming role of "mom." I was lucky enough that the truths conveyed in my screenplay spoke to Uma.

What I love about her performance is its deep understanding of familiar mommy conflicts -- from the pressure to throw a perfect birthday party to the inevitable changes having children bring to a marriage to the posing of the question, "Who am I now that so much of my consciousness is preoccupied with parenting? Does that self even remotely relate to the person I hoped to be?" When people go to see "Motherhood," ideally they'll find similar points of connection, and then maybe wonder for a second why no one ever bothered to explore them in a movie before now.

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