Fakin' Motherhood

August 15, 2006

I was listening to the radio the other day, and heard actress Maria Bello interviewed on Fresh Air. She’s in Oliver Stone’s latest film about the World Trade Center. As a method actress, having a child has greatly affected her ability to tap into certain depths of feeling that she had not experienced before. She said:

Since I had my child, I did The Cooler, The History of Violence, and this movie, and I could have never done them before I was a mother. I’ve never felt more fear and more love in my life than when I gave birth to my son. It was 22 hours in a thunder storm, and I gave birth to him at home in our house in Los Angeles. And I’ll never forget that moment of loving someone so much and being so afraid that anything would ever happen to him. So I feel that that informs every role I do now.

I can’t speak to whether that comes across onscreen–I’ve not yet seen any of the movies that Maria Bello has starred in. But I often experience an uneasy tension when I watch a woman who is not a mother playing a mother onscreen. Some can fake that kind of heart-ripping investment in a child, for sure. (I’m thinking Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense) But others just can’t do it convincingly. (Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovitch). What I have is like “gay-dar,” only it’s extra-sensory perception for the motherhood vibe.

The worst is when I see TV or magazine ads for clothes or perfume that place young models in gauzy family scenes where you are supposed to believe that the willowy young women are the wonderfully fulfilled mothers of the children running about. Gimmee a break! I just cringe at the amount of disbelief the ad designers expect me to suspend.

What about you MT peoples? Can you tell? Is there a quality that you can detect in actresses that shouts “Mom”? Who are the good fakers on film?

Update: Maybe a better question is: what are some scenes or films that really got it right, that socked you in the gut as a mother?