Mother Daughter Act

Because I Said So

Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore star in a film written by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson and directed by Michael Lehmann.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Because I Said So may just dish up a double-layer cake of poetic justice. Firstly, the mother/daughter characters of this fluffy, frothy comedy are bakers/caterers by trade, and of course, there’s a recurring gag of a cake dropping and splattering. Alas, the joke is unfunny the first time, let alone the last, and many of the other actual joke content in the film arrives DOA. In the script about a well-meaning but meddlesome mother (Diane Keaton) and her chatty catch of a daughter (Mandy Moore), the feel-good cliché pistons are working overtime, and you generally wonder if the film was released in this off-season for a reason.

And yet, all that said, if you’re in the right forgiving, movie-hungry mood, there are enough little payoffs along the path to keep you plugged into the movie, even if not actively engaged. Part of the charm comes from the appealing presence of its principles. Keaton works up her flustered, post-Annie Hall neuroses nicely, and Moore is warm and fuzzy, as a daughter who, through her mother’s connivances, winds up “doing the oompah loompah” with two eligibles. Sorting out the romantic and sexual math is part of the screenplay’s task, between montage scenes and the fumbled cakes and jokes.

Along the way, a few incidental questions can’t help but be raised. Why would Van Morrison sell a bit of his soul to allow his song into this kind of thing? And in one scene, the quite prominent Colburn School of Performing Arts on Grand Avenue in L.A. is changed into a generic Museum of Design, presumably just so they could incorporate a glimpse of Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall into the shot. Did they think we wouldn’t notice the changes made to a familiar building in one of America’s largest cities? Such veracity problems creep from the locations into the script and the emotional fabric of the piece. The recipe needed more work and taste-testing before serving it up to the masses.

We leave the theater half-smirking, half-smiling, and wondering if Because I Said So was really directed by Michael Lehmann of the dark comedy Heathers’ fame? The answer, oddly, is yes.

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