Let’s face it. Motherhood is hard. There’s no lying about it. Anyone that does is avoiding a universal truth. There’s really no perfect manual for becoming a mom. No book out there, including the What to Expect series, which was one of the only series on the shelves when I was pregnant, truly outlines all the up’s and down’s of motherhood and what a woman really faces as her identity shifts.
My own life shifted in a very profound way that I never truly expected when I had kids. Some of which is good; some of which is more difficult. Motherhood is somewhat complicated reality for women and one that is often glossed over on Hallmark cards and on celluloid. Looking at depictions on the screens over the years, there honestly haven’t been that many honest portrayals of the kinds of moms I know. Some of my favorite portrayals are Baby Boom, Terms of Endearment, Imitation of Life, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Shirley Valentine, which was hands down my favorite about a mom who leaves her family behind to rediscover herself on an island in Greece…because isn’t that what all moms really need? A good break from reality?
Thankfully, a new movie is coming out this weekend called Fun Mom Dinner, which not only celebrates what there is to love about motherhood, but also provides a nice break from reality. The film may not be perfect on many levels, but it does one thing very right: it makes it clear that while motherhood is no joy ride, it has its rewards, some of which have to be discovered along the way. My kids are 12 and 14, and I’m still finding out things about myself. I’m still making decisions based on where I am in life because of them. I kind of thought I had it all figured it out when I had them, but I’m still discovering that I didn’t figure it out when they were younger, and I certainly don’t have it figured it out now.
The film also celebrates films from the 1980’s, especially all movies by John Hughes, which made me laugh until I cried several times during the film, particularly at the end.
I loved that this movie was largely helmed by and was about women. The screenplay, was written by Julie Rudd, a first time screenwriter and directed by Alethea Jones, a first time motion picture director, produced by Naomi Scott, and the cast is full of some of the best actresses around, such as Toni Colette, Molly Shannon. Katie Aselton and Bridget Everett round the cast out, and the four women have a tremendous amount of synergy.
I was thrilled to sit down with a group of other bloggers and the cast and production team from Fun Mom Dinner to pick their brains about a movie about a group of moms who go through so much of what I did early on and what it was like to shoot it.
Here are a few of my favorite parts of the interview:
Tell us how the film came about.
Julie Rudd: The genesis of the idea came from my own life in that I found myself–when I put my kids in school, I made an amazing group of school mom friends. I was really surprised at how much they had come to mean in my life, how they had enriched my life, and how much I looked forward to being with them. You know, I was like, “I love my husband. I love my kids. Why am I so excited to go out with my mom friends tonight?” The initial idea was just I wanted to celebrate that feeling and that friendship, which I feel like, in a lot of movies with a lot of women, we hadn’t seen that yet. And then, just in terms of, you know, where I was in my life, I’ve been a mom now for a while, I think it really was a matter of an idea for something coming to me at just the right time. This came at a moment in my life where my kids were in school and I was hungry to claim a little piece of my life for myself.
What was it like working with this cast of women?
Alethea Jones: This was my first feature, so it was really interesting. I had no expectation that my first feature would have so many glorious actors in it. That was a really big psychological hurdle to overcome very quickly, because I came onboard and we were shooting just a little under six weeks later. I didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that I would be working with people that I had admired for years. The other part about what it was like working with them is that they’re all thoroughbred. It made me a better director. I had to rise up to them, and it was a joy. It was a very pure experience for me.
Naomi Scott: We had 21 days for the whole feature, but 13 days only with all four women.
Aselton: Can I tell this story really quick? And I don’t know if you ever picked up on it. Since I saw Muriel’s Wedding, I would say, “You’re terrible.” And I said it to you not meaning to say it to you, saying it–.
Collette: –You’re terrible–.
Aselton: I said it to you the first night we worked together. And I was mortified. I was like, “I just freaking quoted her to her, and I just freaking met her.” The next thing, I did Superstar to her. It was like, “Oh, real.” And then I started singing the tittie song to her. I was, like, amazed.
Which character do you relate to most?
Rudd: I think as a mom, I can relate to each of those women at different points in my life, at different points of my motherhood. I think they’re all a little bit me.
Collette: Some of them remind me women who don’t have kids, actually, also. I mean, they’re just real women and they all happen to have kids.
Aselton: I feel like that mom, where I’m just, like, “I’m good. I don’t need more mom friends. I like my friends. I don’t need to be friends with you because you’re a mom.” But, I’ve got two kids, and I feel like I really overextended myself when the first one was in preschool I got to know every mom and I got to know all their kids and I got to know their husbands. We went out for wine and we did the thing, and I was a room parent. Then by the time the second kid went to preschool, I was like, “Uh-uh,” ’cause you know why? In a couple years, I’m never going to see you guys again.
Shannon: I had a mom send me an e-mail. It was, like, a group e-mail to all the moms where it was like, “Ladies, I just need you to do this little thing for this project at school. I just need you to take a piece of paper and cut it into a circle, and then cut a triangle and put that into an envelope.” And then it was like this long, detailed email that I thought was so funny. I was like, “How can they send this?” We’re so busy that you don’t need those kind of e-mails. But I thought it was so funny that I forwarded it to people like, “Can you believe this?” This makes me want to drink a martini and, like, it gives me a headache. And how dare she send this out and ask us to do all this cutting?
Was there any ad-libbing on the set?
Everett: We did a ton of improvising.
What do you think is the key message that you’d like other moms to have the takeaway as?
Rudd: I think a lot of the pressure that moms put on themselves and we put it on ourselves, that we have to be perfect, that nobody can watch our kids like we can, which is probably true. But it’s okay to take a little time for yourself.
Do you feel like, now that you’re a mom, you had less of your friendships from before, and then you kind of feel really happy about the ones that you make?
Aselton: It’s interesting. I was the first one of my group of friends to have kids. I had kids much earlier. I was 29, so I was like a baby in Los Angeles having children, which is silly because where I grew up everyone had kids out of high school. So, I thought I was a geriatric and they thought I was crazy. Now all of my friends are starting to have children and my kids are much older. So, I find myself sort of gravitating toward moms who have kids more of my kids’ age because I’ve already done the baby thing, now all of my friends are kind of getting into that, and I’m just like “I’m so tired of that.”
What types of stories do you enjoy telling?
Scott: This was kind of a dream come true for me, and just keep telling stores like these that haven’t been told before and I think of lot of people are like, oh, this is a mom movie or this is a girls’ movie or there’s a lot of us and there are a lot of stories to tell. So, if this is the beginning and this keeps opening the door to another story or a flood of stories, then I want to be onboard, especially if they’re comedic and entertaining.
Jones: I think we’re in a really special time where there are a lot of options to portray women in a more honest way, in a way that we haven’t seen before. And I want to keep being part of that.
What piece of advice do you want to give to moms?
Collette: I think women wear so many hats, and I think they need to give themselves a break and not feel that they have to be perfect all the time. The amount of guilt that most mothers that I speak to, the guilt is rife. It’s really unfair.
Aselton: You can’t do everything all at the same time. It’s okay. It makes you a more accessible, more human human to say it’s okay, I’m going to fail sometimes. I’m going to fall a little short, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom or a bad wife or a bad friend. It just means I can’t ace it all of the time.
Shannon: I read this amazing book called Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. It’s fantastic. But basically it’s about how women can be really hard on other women. And there’s women who work, women who don’t work, and there’s a lot of insecurity about these choices. I would say it’s important to take care of yourself and give yourself a break, like Toni was saying, and do nice things for yourself, because then you can go back and be a better mother because you have balance.
Everett: Well, I don’t believe in giving unsolicited advice. That would probably be my advice, to not give unsolicited advice. But I also say I like to take lots of time to show my appreciation and love for my little girl with scritchy-scratches and tummy rubs. I let her know every day what she means to me.
Shannon: I remember when I first had a baby, I would go to the park. And if I was too tired, I would boss people around, like tell them now they should sleep train or–and I was like, “I’m in a bitchy mood because I’m overtired, and I’m bossing strangers around in the park.”
Collette: I can’t believe new mothers are allowed to drive cars. I mean, there should be a time limit where they really can’t, because you are a zombie.
Everett (sings): “You got them little nippy titties, put ’em in the air. She got them tube sock titties, she put ’em in the air. I got these beavertail titties, I put ’em in the air. Put ’em up, put ’em up, put ’em up. ” That’s not too heavy. It’s a celebration of women.
Fun Mom Dinner – In Select Theaters and On Demand August 4
Which #FunMomDinner mom are you? Take the quiz to find out! http://funmomdinnerquiz.com
Fun Mom Dinner is now in select theaters and On Demand, find it on iTunes.
Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Thank you to Momentum Pictures for hosting me.