At least Motherhood is sufficiently aware enough of its well-heeled sob story’s privileged scope—one day’s travails of a stay-at-home New York mom (Uma Thurman) whose family occupies two adjoining rent-stabilized West Village apartments—to subject its dazed, frustrated heroine to the razzing of a few passing grumps. Thurman’s uncombed Eliza, wearing Tina Fey glasses and loose budget dresses to camouflage her Umaness, is a multitasking mess on the day of her daughter’s sixth birthday party, but it’s clear that the locals who berate her for babbling into her cell on checkout lines or label her sub-Erma Bombeck blog the work of a “sanctimommy” just don’t understand that you can’t get the kids to school, browse through designer-cutout racks, and scoop the dog’s shit off the sidewalk all in the same morning. Minnie Driver pops in occasionally as Eliza’s saucy single-mom pal and sounding board, mostly giving the audience mild relief from Thurman’s blog-narration, but her scenes lack the wit of a momentary cameo by Jodie Foster as herself, tot in tow, who enters the local celeb-favored playground snarling inaudibly at paparazzi.
Director Katherine Dieckmann, who demonstrated some natural comic rhythms and efficiency with actors in Diggers, is here unable to surmount the sitcom dreariness of her first original screenplay, apparently a “write-what-you-know” misjudgment. After a near-fling with a hunky young messenger, along with her perceptive editor-husband’s (Anthony Edwards) apt markup of a new life-of-a-mom piece as “banal,” Eliza plunges into a dark afternoon of the soul, fleeing her domestic prison via the Lincoln Tunnel before another mini-crisis predictably leads to a climactic spousal heart-to-heart, then learning and growing enabled by a financial windfall ex machina. Set in a sunny, slick simulacrum of the “godforsaken city that’s a shadow of its former self,” as Uma damningly terms Gotham in mid-tantrum, the film’s biggest display of chutzpah may be in choosing a film crew’s usurpation of neighborhood streets as one of the major obstacles to the quality of urban bourgeois life. If only Motherhood had been denied its location permits: It’s a blinkered New York Times metro-section feature come to bleary celluloid life.