This would-be tear-jerker is essentially a two-hander between Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon, and both are capable of great things. Sarandon has proved her worth in everything from drama (White Palace) to comedy (The Witches Of Eastwick), while Portman showed great promise in Leon and Beautiful Girls. Director Wayne Wang is also rated. Okay, the 'erotic thriller' Slamdance might not have been so hot, but The Joy Luck Club and Smoke proved he could handle this sort of material well.
On paper it looks like a perfect scenario, an actress' dream and an ideal film for female audiences looking for something to relate to with a hint of realism. And if you've read early reviews then you'd have every reason to believe that the film lived up to its promise.
Only it doesn't. This overlong, dull, whiny drama does little to tap the potential of its two stars. Spanning three years in the life of the mother and daughter, from when they arrive in Beverly Hills to when Ann heads off to college, it's a catalogue of monotonous arguments and pouting, topped off with the most inane voice-over imaginable. Example: mother walks into a room, slams door, stalks past daughter sitting on sofa. Cue voice-over: "We weren't talking." Furthermore, every argument ends with the mother insisting they go for ice cream, while the daughter insists she doesn't want ice cream. And yet they go to buy ice cream. Every time.
This was also meant to be the movie that gave Natalie Portman her first sex scene. Apparently, she requested that the segment was rewritten, but the embarrassing replacement might as well have been cut altogether.
There is a drama to be made here, detailing the intense relationship between a mother and daughter but it's not this adaptation of Mona Simpson's novel. For a far better stab at the genre, check out Terms Of Endearment instead.