starring Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Stephen Collins
screenplay by Karen Leigh Hopkins & Jessie Nelson
directed by Michael Lehmann
by Walter Chaw From the guy who once upon a time made Heathers--a film that remains the pithiest commentary on school violence and the sea of troubles faced by adolescents lost in the blackboard jungle--comes a fearsome rampage against mankind and art, the excrescent Because I Said So. The best that can be said about this early contender for the worst film of 2007 is that it's properly keystone'd by Diane Keaton, who, between this and The Family Stone, cements her position as the most smug, insufferable, unwatchable persona in a long and tumescent line of such personae. She embodies the absolute worst of every single stereotype of the domineering mother: dotty, ditzy, Luddite, sexless/oversexed, cruel, racist, otherwise intolerant, and above all hysterical. Throw her psychotic mommy dearest from The Other Sister into the stew and it's hard to find a more stalwart movie monster in the last ten years than Keaton, who's gone from a charming neurotic to a cobwebbed, cell-phone-wielding vagina dentata.
In a saner era, the kind of actress Keaton's decided to become would at least be mined for camp (see: the respective ends of Bette Davis's and Joan Crawford's careers) instead of for pathos and suture. When typecast Keaton's matronly ghoul blames her behaviour on never having had an orgasm (then almost has one at the prospect of being an unforgivable cunt to a guy in a turban), that rustle of cheer and good humour tittering from an audience of muttering morons stupid enough to come and ignorant enough to stay should be warning enough to cover your balls and head for the exit. That Keaton remains so appealing to so large, if limited, an audience of Oprah nationals surprises for any number of ethical reasons but mostly for how many angry, middle-aged women in the United States still haven't the wit to figure out how to climax. Or is it that the only thing left to feel superior to for many is the fantasy of a sixty-year-old WASP without access to a vibrator and Cinemax?
Daphne (Keaton) is obsessed with her Hanging Up daughters having all the orgasms she hasn't enjoyed and thus inserts herself forcefully, nay, bodily, into their romantic affairs. Currently in the crosshairs is Milly (Mandy Moore), who in mom's estimation really needs to get popped but good by straight-arrow robot (say it with me) architect Jason (Tom Everett Scott) and not by more-likely-to-deliver-an-orgasm lovable layabout musician Johnny (Gabriel Macht), leaving Milly with the never-in-question decision of whether to cum whilst pinioned on a soulless automaton or a soulful grunger still living at home with his dad. Icky? I'll say. This over-interest in the exploits of her daughter's vulva is unfortunately the only analysis possible by the picture's own logic, while boutique professions like Daphne's catering (or Jason's architecture) are unfortunate metaphors for the shallowness of Because I Said So's characterizations. The film is a hate crime, make no mistake, that has as much time for its recurring gags of a nympho mutt and a persistent porn site as it does for ladling on the hate for at least three different Asian cultures. The only thing missing is the scene where Daphne looks on lovingly as Johnny, finally proving to the materfamilias what every other sentient being on the planet has gleaned from just a whiff of the premise, pleasures her understandably frigid little girl to a real toe-curler.
In quick order, Because I Said So hates miscegenation, hates ethnicity, hates the lower class, hates art, and hates women. It's a bubbly comedy marked with badly-choreographed slapstick and tedious "surprise" endings where Daphne gets her loving comeuppance (and Milly, I hasten to reiterate, gets laid the right way), about a tyrant any community would shun, medicate, and institutionalize, if not actually deposit on an ice floe and push off into the black. Nothing she does is forgivable and because she's simply a collection of odious actions, there's no substance in there to give us any insight into her sociopathic behaviour. She's very much the bogey in a horror movie, and Milly is the scream queen avatar who must find a way to overcome her dire situation either to win out or, as is often the case in slasher cinema, to morph into the very creature that torments her. I wonder if movies like Because I Said So don't fulfill the very same function as the gory slice-and-dicers favoured by teenage boys: cautionary tales, relationship porn, and enough exaggerated behaviour to elicit cathartic chills and jeers. If that's the case, don't even bother trying to kill it: just run. Originally published: February 2, 2007.