Because I Said So‘s opening montage—images of boundless mother love across different cultures—is cute but ironic given the film’s contempt for minorities. The first red flag is the trip Daphne (Diane Keaton) and her daughters pay to a massage parlor, which begins with the hilarious comedy staple Whose Cell Phone Is Ringing and ends with an Asian minstrel show. The second is the expression on the face of Keaton’s mother hen when her character auditions guys for a date with her youngest daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore). The film hopes we’ll laugh at the supposed horror of Daphne (Keaton) having to sit across the table from a man wearing a turban, then asks us to let out a sigh of relief when Jason (Tom Everett Scott) shows up at the last minute to wow her with his lily-whiteness. The film’s gift for laying contrivance atop insult is as uncanny as it is inhuman.
Milly’s struggle to choose between Everett Scott’s ice-cold architect and Gabriel Macht’s tattoed musician is so uncomplicated the outcome practically flashes on the screen in neon lights. Screenwriters Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson, both responsible for some of the more reprehensible romantic comedies and weepies of the last decade, imagine Milly’s mating habits as a spectacle of Making Life Choices by Shrill Example: In one scene, Milly gets scolded by Jason for breaking a wine glass that belonged to his grandmother and for saying “great” too many times; in the next, Johnny (Macht) shrugs off the young woman’s panic when his son bumps into her and she drops an inexpensive plate. The movie’s script has an unnatural life of its own, almost as if were doing all the thinking for its characters, and yet Moore’s endearing performance makes the torture of having to watch another dumbed-down interpretation of Reality Bites seem almost tolerable.
Keaton merits no such praise. The low-point of her acting career, the actress essays a character whose pathological interference into her daughter’s life is rationalized as a product of never having had an orgasm. Nothing less, nothing more. We learn this in a scene where Daphne has lost her voice (thank God) and has to spend a few days with Milly, jotting down her frustrations on a notepad. Keaton, sadly, accepts the anti-woman reductiveness of the script with embarrassing and ingratiating gusto, perpetually flailing into screen as if she were an undiscovered member of the Marx Brothers clan, wearing what appears to be dresses-cum-clown-suits of her own design and always holding a cake in her hand that inevitably splatters across her face. Welcome to the rom-com in the age of Must Love Dogs.