Because I Said So

There are probably hundreds of different ways people define a chick-flick, but I’ve discovered a movie that I would use as a new standard to which all such movies should be compared. Overbearing mothers…supportive sisters…worthless, runaway fathers... excessive furniture moving... an irrational need to have a phone conversation in the middle of a date... chocolate soufflé... it has everything I imagine such a movie would need and then some. The problem is that cramming all those chick-flick elements into a single film has pushed out a lot of the stuff that helps make a movie enjoyable to watch.

Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton) is the kind of doting, interfering, emotionally addicted woman who would have crafted the ultimate momma’s boy. However, as fate would have it, she only produced three daughters before her husband fled the scene. The older daughters, level headed psychiatrist Maggie (Laura Graham) and fun loving Mae (Piper Perabo) both managed to find their perfect man and wind up happily married. The youngest, Milly (Mandy Moore), hasn’t had such good fortune, unwittingly stumbling into one deadbeat heartbreaker after another. Daphne is bound and determined to find the man she thinks would be best for Milly, even if it means taking out a personal ad and screening each individual applicant herself.

The manhunt turns up copious candidates, but only one passes muster: Jason (Tom Everett Scott), the financially successful but essentially soulless architect. Daphne makes the match, but much to her dismay Milly falls for another guy at the exact same time, the sweet, free spirited single father, Johnny (Gabriel Macht). Milly is pinned to both men, on the one side by her heart and on the other side by her mother. Both guys are painfully stereotypical, but that seems to be intentional. Heaven forbid anything take the spotlight off of the ladies.

Once the scene is set the movie wallows around in one-dimensional character interactions occasionally interrupted by over-the-top physical gags. For example, in one scene Daphne and her daughters discuss their underwear preferences and Milly’s man problems while changing clothes before heading into a spa. Moments later a Korean masseuse jumps up on Daphne’s back and, despite her flailing protestations, begins bending her like a pretzel in an effort to get her to loosen up.

Don’t even get me started on Daphne’s bad fortune of twice having her daughters call her on the phone just after her computer gets stuck on a porn site while she’s trying to find an online matchmaking service. And then there’s the fact that the family can’t make it through a wedding without someone sneaking off to have sex or the way in which the women all seem to relate to each other by exchanging pastries. The movie might just as well have been called Life As A Cake.

About two-thirds of the way through, Because I Said So takes a bizarre twist when Daphne has an all too convenient encounter with Johnny’s father, Joe (Stephen Collins). Swept off her feet, Daphne finally finds someone who can help her realize the error of her interfering ways. While cute in a “you can find love later in life” sort of way, it has the creepy side effect of making Milly and Johnny step-brother and sister. Of course, that doesn’t stand in their way. This is a chick-flick, and the ending is just as predictable as you’d expect.

For all the movie’s failings, you can’t fault the cast. The actors all have the ability to play the roles, but there’s little they can do to overcome the triteness of the script. Diane Keaton, who has made these sorts of extreme matriarchal roles a staple of her career, tries her best to breathe life into the flatly written Daphne. Mandy Moore proves yet again that she has the chops to play a solid leading character even if she can’t get through the movie without a musical number or two. Stephen Collins and Gabriel Macht are the perfect sensitive male father/son team, knowing how to tame their women’s wild hearts while not being afraid to get a little teary eyed in front of them. .

Too silly to be a romantic comedy, Because I Said So is a full blown comic estrogen-fest that gets so caught up in trying to be funny while identifying with the hazards of female familial interpersonal relationships that it almost forgets other important little details like plot and character development. Moment to moment the comedic bits and semi-dramatic scenes work well enough, but strung together into a single film they end up as a flimsy, pseudo-emotional mess.