The Mother Review: J.Lo Battles a Weak Screenplay
By Daniel Rester
Pop star Jennifer Lopez has fought off anacondas in the jungle and manipulative boys next door on the big screen and the press for Gigli (2003) in real life. Her latest project, The Mother, has her going up against assassins and gun runners. While J.Lo brings her usual physicality to the film, she isn’t enough to overcome a hackneyed script and workmanlike execution.
Lopez plays a nameless assassin who steps away from the field and hides out in Alaska, letting her baby daughter grow up in a peaceful setting far away. Nefarious men from her past, played by Joseph Fiennes and Gael Garcia Bernal, come after her twelve years later. She must load her guns once again in order to protect her now-grown daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez).
It somehow took three screenwriters to deliver this generic actioner. The plot pretty much goes exactly where you expect it to and the bad guys even drive black vehicles and have facial scars. The relationship between the mother and Zoe is undercooked at best, problematic at worst (she teaches her daughter assassination skills rather than just survival skills). Symbolism is also laid on thick in the form of a wolf and her pups.
The bland dialogue does none of the players any favors either. Early on in the film, an FBI agent actually asks over a walkie talkie “Are we breached?” after he just witnessed his partner get sniped in the head. Yeah, I’d say you’re breached. The most interesting conversation in the film is a random bit having to do with cheese and cashews. It’s a dumb scene inclusion, but at least it embraces some fun stupidity like the rest of the film probably should have.
Director Niki Caro, of Whale Rider (2002) fame, does a fine enough job of helming The Mother. The film looks slick and contains a handful of exciting action sequences. An extended chase in Cuba is the highlight, with the mother ending it by handing a bouquet back to a frightened wedding party.
Lopez is fine in this role, though it is hard to fully buy her as a veteran with 46 confirmed kills under her belt. Paul Raci comes across best as Jons, who assists the mother and Zoe as they hide from the baddies. Bernal and Fiennes do what they can with those antagonist roles, but neither get too much time to shine.
The Mother isn’t quite a gift of an action film for Mother’s Day weekend. It’s functional but forgettable. Caro and Lopez try to bring some life to the material, but the script is just so rote from beginning to end.
My Grade: 5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C)
Running Time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
The Mother began streaming on Netflix on May 12th, 2023.