I really wanted to like “The Mommy Track,” and not because I’m a mommy, or because I ever ran track, or even because I have some special affinity for movies featuring a group of sisters dealing with their mother’s death, as this movie portrays. No, I wanted to like it because I see plenty of amateur horror flicks and geeky Kevin Smith wannabe efforts in this gig, and a movie billed as a “film about identity” featuring nary a bloodpack, bared breast, or self-conscious rant about moviemaking sounded fine. Unfortunately, what starts out as an offbeat study of relationships in a family run by women quickly devolves into a familiar pattern of complain/regret/resolve/repeat.
Written and directed by Donna Dudick, “The Mommy Track” brings together three sisters: serial mother Olivia (Stephanie Goodman), no-nonsense attorney Midge (Dudick), and up-and-coming actress/screenwriter Yvonne (Tobi-Lyn Byers). Their mother has just passed away and, in a rather familiar plot device, the three reunite for the funeral and the imminent reading of Mom’s will. Along the way we’re introduced to Olivia’s eccentric goof-off of a husband Hadley (Keith Soester) and Midge’s possible boyfriend Joe (Brian Weis). As the movie progresses, the sisters discover that mother apparently disinherited one of them, and tension, of a sort, mounts as they gather to discuss their childhoods and the possibilities that each of them might be left in the cold.
Taken at face value, the movie has the potential to offer something concrete about sibling dynamics, as well as the effect of a devout – or not, depending on which sister we’re talking about – Catholic upbringing (in fact, Catholic symbolism is pervasive throughout the film, and eventually gets fairly cloying). It’s too bad that Dudick felt it necessary to pad the film with numerous long musical interludes (one of which I timed at 4 ½ minutes) and overlong conversations about not very much, honestly. All three women obviously have serious mother issues, but this is apparent early on. There is also very little believable conflict, and that which does arrive is almost immediately deflated.
“The Mommy Track” features solid performances from all three principles, with Goodman standing out as especially believable. Soester’s turn as Hadley is effective in making the viewer wonder what the hell such an apparently decent and hard-working woman is doing with such a malcontent. And Dudick effectively guides the assumed impropriety evident between him and Midge.
There are nice bits here and there, but ultimately I wasn’t sure what an audience was supposed to come away thinking. One sister seems to be unfairly punished in the will for a choice made long ago, while another is rewarded (hypocritically, it almost seems) for choosing a path that one doesn’t usually consider traditionally family-oriented. The numerous double-exposure shots of Jesus and crucifixes were unnecessary, from my perspective. And “The Mommy Track” also sports one of the most annoying opening title songs I’ve ever heard.
Dudick and company are obviously very enthusiastic about their efforts, and that feeling is contagious…to a point. Sadly, that same passion didn’t translate effectively enough to the finished project.