Jennifer Lopez has carved out a night career for herself in Hollywood besides her singing career. She got her big break in the musical biopic Salena and later starred opposite George Clooney in Out of Site. She was off and running. Her on-again-off-again relationship with Ben Affleck has been all over the tabloids but it hasn’t helped her acting career much, a few duds in the 2000s, and her career was on life support. In the last few years, she’s come back with some good roles in Hustlers, Marry Me, and this past February’s Shotgun Wedding. Now she has teamed up with an acclaimed director Niki Caro for The Mother.
Lopez plays the titular title character of The Mother. She is an ex-military operative who gets shot while pregnant with her daughter. To protect the child she has her sent away to foster parents. When some familiar killings start to happen she notices a pattern to the brutality of them. She comes out of seclusion from her little cabin in the Alaskan wilderness to investigate what’s going on. It turns out to be a trap and the man who shot her years before is after her and her abandoned child. She must track down the girl she has had no contact with for twelve years and convince her she is on her side and trying to help her from being kidnapped and even killed in the process.
Caro has become known as a director who fights for women’s rights and surrounds herself with a lot of women on set. The producers, writers, and a lot of people behind the scenes in this production were women. It makes sense because a lot of the films she’s made focus on strong female protagonists. The Whale Rider, North Country, and even the live-action remake of Mulan we’re all about strong women overcoming the odds to be better people. The Mother tries for that but falls short. I can see why Lopez would sign on for this project. It had a lot of potential. It just doesn’t live up to that at all.
When I watch a film I am looking at it with a critical eye. And so with that comes things like cinematography. If the cinematography isn’t right it throws me completely out of a film. This movie has a couple of problems with its cinematography. The first is that it looks like it was filmed in two different styles. One looked more realistic like a Michael Mann style and the other looked more gritty and had a shadowy style. Also, add in there is a problem with shallow depth of field. While characters were in the foreground the background was all cloudy and hard to see. These didn’t do the film any favors. It threw me completely out of it.
The movie has an interesting premise and that’s all well and good but if the premise is easily figured out by those watching the film all the surprises and plot points are wasted. This movie was so predictable it wasn’t funny. I was literally calling out what would happen before it happened. That’s not a good thing. There were a lot of action sequences but they weren’t anything special. The car chases and fight scenes were all fine but the overall concept of the film has been done before. It’s the Lone Wolf and Cub scenario all over again. To a lesser extent.
Some of these things added up to a not-so-good film in my eyes but the one glaring weakness this movie had was its star, Lopez. I couldn’t buy her in this role. The fact that she was a special forces sniper was inconceivable to me. She didn’t come across as that tough even though she tried. They even used a camera trick where she targeted her victims from a long distance which made it seem like she was a great sniper. I didn’t buy it though. I hate to say it but I think Lopez was the wrong actress for this role. She tried to act all tough but I just didn’t see it in her acting.
The Mother is another example of Netflix throwing money at a filmmaker and concept to see if it sticks. Unfortunately for this film, it didn’t stick. It fell flat on the floor. Lopez was miscast and the concept didn’t work entirely for me. The cinematography wasn’t very good and that’s a travesty. Caro is a better filmmaker than this and I can point to many occasions where she knocked it out of the park as a filmmaker. A lot of people will try watching this movie this Mother’s Day weekend but hopefully, they’ll turn it off and switch to something else on Netflix instead. That’s what I would do.
The Mother streams on Netflix on May 12th
1 ½ stars
Dan Skop Allen