“What Does Motherhood Mean to Me?” wonders Eliza, Uma Thurman’s harried West Village mother of two, as she works her way through a day of tough city living in Katherine Dieckmann’s Motherhood. Somewhat sadly, this existential pondering doesn’t spring organically from the material at hand: an episodic catalogue of indignities visited by the evil urban environment upon those who choose to procreate therein. Instead, our heroine, a creative sort left at wit’s end by the mundane distractions of her life, fresh from finishing a quickie post to her mom-blog “The Bjorn Identity,” is sparked to answer this rather large question by a crude pop-up internet ad announcing a writing contest—500 words on being a mom could be Eliza’s ticket back into a regular writing gig and the adult workforce.
No sooner has Eliza found opportunity knocking than Dieckmann whip-zooms to a calendar garishly scribbled with a notice about daughter Clara’s impending sixth birthday party, set for later in the day we’re witnessing, the same day as the deadline for the contest, thus setting in motion the film’s twinned narratives and themes: balance between the needs of children and the needs of the parent. 30 Rock episodes often build themselves around such narratively inconvenient confluences sketched out in brief before the show’s madcap credits, only to launch from this sitcomy footing into unimaginable feats of absurdity (I’d love to see an afternoon with Mama Lemon juggling a baby and an impending TGIS episode sketched out in 22 minutes). Dieckmann’s reliance on the tried-and-true only highlights Motherhood‘s links to convention. Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s review of Motherhood.