Monday, February 12, 2007

Because I Said So

BECAUSE I SAID SO (Michael Lehmann, 2007)

Like any good mother, Daphne (Diane Keaton) worries that her daughter Milly (Mandy Moore) won't find a good man to settle down with. Her two other daughters, Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo), are blissfuly married, but her youngest just doesn't seem to have much relationship success. Daphne fears that Milly is following her example of failed romances and takes extra measures in BECAUSE I SAID SO to find her love and happiness.

Unbeknownst to Milly, Daphne places an online dating ad and conducts an exhaustive interview process of potential suitors. Predictably, she meets the usual freakazoids and social outcasts until Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a charming architect, arrives. Daphne thinks he's perfect for Milly, but Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a bemused musician who has observed this whole ritual, doesn't think Jason is as great as he appears to be. He proposes that Daphne introduce him to her daughter, an idea that she swiftly dismisses. Johnny manages to get Milly's contact info, though, and sets out to prove dear old mom wrong.

Milly is still in the dark about the whole process when she meets Jason. He and Daphne conspire to have Milly cater one of his events. Mom even picks out a polka dot dress she knows he will like. Much to Daphne's satisfaction, Milly and Jason hit it off, but little does she know that her daughter has also met Johnny and is seeing him as well.

Milly's wounded reaction about the secret matchmaking and wooing done on her behalf in BECAUSE I SAID SO could be cleared up with one well-placed statement from several people, but this is another romantic comedy that lets the conflict spiral out of control because no one can speak directly. Communication problems are a fact of life. Active deception by those who supposedly care a lot for the duped person is something else.

The unintended effect of all this duplicity results in unsympathetic characters, a critical misstep for a film predicated on likable people finding joy. Daphne's attempts to manipulate Milly's life border on pathological behavior. BECAUSE I SAID SO prefers Johnny over Jason as Milly's romantic partner, yet both guys are less than forthcoming about how they came to know about her. Jason's blueblood heritage and the attendant temper seem to be the main things working against him, but Johnny, whose initial interest in Milly stems from showing up Daphne, isn't much better. Even Milly comes off poorly. She gets seriously involved with both guys and keeps them on a string even after a marriage proposal. Her indignation at learning the truth isn't earned since her actions aren't noble either.

Some of the nonsense could be overlooked as part of rom com conventions, but BECAUSE I SAID SO'S shrillness makes for an exhausting experience. Keaton's Daphne means well, but the actress plays the hysterical mother as though she's in need of serious medication. Either she is or the viewer is to handle her. The screen isn't wide enough for the broad comedy that falls flat more often than not. Yet again a character becomes a victim to the miraculously failing technology when stumbling upon an "adult" website. Suddenly a competent computer user must resort to flailing wildly at the keyboard and mouse while the heretofore perfectly working machine fails to comply. (See the malfunctioning TV remote in AMERICAN PIE for another example.) Of course, the audible embarrassment inspires a lusty response from the character's dog too.

With the electronic tools at everyone's disposal, today's single adults may know all too well how a parent's love and good intentions can end up being more meddlesome than helpful when it comes to finding that special someone. BECAUSE I SAID SO might have found more of that emotional truth and humor if it stayed on a relatable level than the cartoonish theatrics it displays.

Grade: C-

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