Sarah Chalke and Cameron Esposito come out as a couple in “Mother’s Day”

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Yesterday was a bit surreal for me. Less than 24 hours after hearing about legendary director/writer/producer Garry Marshall’s passing, a personal courier showed up at my door with a DVD copy of his last film: Mother’s Day. Of course, I had already been in talks to review the movie, but I’ve never had a single film show up like that, and the timing was just remarkable. Add to that the fact that I had just referenced one of his most beloved works, Pretty Woman, the other day and it just made sense that I had to devote my evening to Mr. Marshall and his lesbian-inclusive last effort, Mother’s Day.

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First, a little bit about Garry. The man is a Hollywood legend, having had his hand in a bunch of TV hits in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, from The Lucy Show to Laverne & Shirley to Mork & Mindy and so many more. As a filmmaker, notable works include Beaches, Overboard and Runaway Bride. In the early 2000s, he would become relevant to a new generation by directing The Princess Diaries and its sequel, both of which made a star of ally Anne Hathaway and helped bring out actress Heather Matarazzo to our attention. A surge of popularity came Garry’s way again from 2010 onwards due to his Holiday series (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day). In all this, it might be easy to overlook Garry’s role as an LGBT ally. Veteran journalist Karen Ocamb does him justice in an obituary for The Pride L.A. in which she explains Garry was “front-and-center at almost every GLAAD/LA Awards Gala, starting with the first awards show in Los Angeles in 1991.” Garry was a class act.

So onwards to discussing his lifelong love: his work.

Mother’s Day follows in the same vein as the other two Holiday movies–it’s a feel-good film with a few tear-jerking moments and a lot of big name actors involved. In this case, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis and, as always, Hector Elizondo. Some other noteworthy actors appear in the film as well, including everyone’s favorite pretty little gay, Shay Mitchell. But we’re in this for Sarah Chalke and Cameron Esposito, who play lesbian couple Gabi and Max. 

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Set in Atlanta in the lead up to Mother’s Day, this film is all about mama drama and hijinks. What’ll it be for Gabi and Max? Gabi’s parents visiting from Texas, who don’t know she’s married to a woman or that they have a son together.

Unsurprisingly, Gabi’s mom, Flo (Margo Martindale) is the judgy type. Fortunately, not everyone in her family is. Her sister, Jesse (Kate Hudson), lives right next door and loves Max and their son, Charlie. Of course, she’s been the victim of her parents’ judgment herself ever since she started dating her now husband (who her parents don’t know she’s married), Russell (Aasif Mandvi), who’s of Indian descent.

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Gabi, by the way, has no plans of coming out to her parents. Her cover story is that she’s engaged to an investment banker named Steven, who has a low sperm count. She’s also in therapy, so they haven’t set a wedding date yet. I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of moms have and will see this film, so there goes that cover story for anyone considering it!

The sisters left Texas to get away from their mom. It’s been even harder on Jesse, who hasn’t spoken to mama bear in years. This year, Gabi wants to put an end to their fighting. She sets up a Skype date, and after Flo finally figures out how that works, it seems like this relationship can be repaired. Keep in mind, however, Jesse and Gabi still don’t fess up about their partners or children.

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Don’t worry, though–they’ll soon get a chance to! Maybe don’t make up when your parents are clearly on the move in an RV and can easily change their travel plans to visit. And visit they do, to both sisters’ panic.

I gotta say, seeing Flo confuse Max from behind for Steven was pretty funny. Max doesn’t really see it that way, but that’s because she’s just shocked. She introduces herself as Gabi’s partner, to which Jesse chimes in with “partner in crime.” To her credit, Gabi ends the charade by clarifying that Max is her “life partner.” Max looks on proudly, but after Flo’s confusion continues, she now spells it out: they’re married. Cue Flo’s over-the-top show of despair that only increases when the truth about Jesse’s life comes out.

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What’s a conservative parent supposed to do in this situation? Most would probably try to hightail it out of there, and Flo and her husband Earl (Robert Pine) are no exceptions. But we couldn’t have that happen, could we? No, instead vehicle troubles are going to keep them there for a bit. And just in time to get to know the grandkids…

Will this family resolve their issues by the end of Mother’s Day? Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t bet against that.

If you find it odd that most of those big name actors were rarely referenced in this review, that’s because Gabi and Max are shown to have no connection beyond Jesse and the family. Jesse, however, is good friends with Sandy (Aniston) and Kristin (Britt Robertson), both of whom have big storylines in the film. Unfortunately, Gabi and Max aren’t flushed out characters, Max even less so. It’s unclear what they do for work, how they met or what their life outside their home is like. Even their drama is lessened. You would think Max would be really upset about her wife keeping their life together a secret from her parents, but she’s not. If she has been in the past, it’s not mentioned.

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As far as stereotypes go, there aren’t too many outside of that one “life partner” reference, Flo’s phrasing that Gabi married “a gay person” and Max briefly appearing in male boxer shorts. If you tilt your head, there also seems to be the implication that it’s been obvious Gabi’s gay since asking to dress up as Liberace for Halloween as a kid.

But at the end of the day, they’re a sweet couple raising a sweet kid. Both women are likable and shine when given the chance. In a film that follows a very specific formula, someone had to have their screentime sacrificed and unfortunately it was the lesbians. Again. I know. But do I think Garry and co.’s hearts were in the right place? I do. Now, I don’t know if there will be a next time in this series, but if there is, Garry’s affection for LGBT people has got to come through more and I hope that’s the case.

One last thing: if you want to get a smile in while remembering Garry, watch the Mother’s Day gag reel, which he introduces. The man loved what he did.

Thanks for the memories, Garry.

Mother’s Day comes out on DVD and Blu-ray on August 2.

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