DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Diane Keaton as MARILYN COOPER
    Dax Shepard as NOAH COOPER
    Liv Tyler as CLARE COOPER
    Mike White as MYRON STUBBS
    Ken Howard as GENE COOPER
    Selma Stern as HELEN COOPER

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Screen Media Films

    Directed by: Vince Di Meglio

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Noah Cooper (Dax Shepard) has had a bad week. Not only was he fired from his job... not only is his wife Clare (Liv Tyler) wanting to get pregnant... not only does he have a rogue cousin staying over as a house guest... but his mother Marilyn (Diane Keaton) has decided to leave his dad and move in with him. Things get even worse when she gets a job at the same dead-end carpet warehouse that Noah finds as his new employer. Eventually, Noah and Marilyn must learn to put aside their differences and become a family as he resolves outstanding issues with his wife.

I will admit that for a relatively small independent film, I was impressed with the slate of actors the filmmakers lined up. I mean, Diane Keaton is a freaking Oscar winner, after all. And although she has played the overbearing mom a number of times in the past few years (e.g., “Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Family Stone” and most recently “Because I Said So”), she still brings her A-game to the movie.

Everyone has a relative (be it a mother or a mother-in-law, or any number of overbearing female members of a family) that they can relate to. Hopefully, the rest of society will have more of a backbone when standing up to their said overbearing and relatable relative. Here’s where Dax Shepard’s character falters... he just doesn’t know how to stand up for himself.

Conversely, Liv Tyler is sweet in this movie, although she isn’t given much to work with. The movie ultimately revolves around Noah and Marilyn, and while Shepard and Keaton have a decent amount of chemistry, the rest of the cast is more warm and likable than Shepard.

Still, there are some cute dogs in the flick, which I believe belong to the director... he seems to have named his production company Germie & Bucky after them, at least that’s what I could glean from the opening vanity card.

In spite of the impressive cast (which seems to show that A-list actors can be had at bargain basement prices for the right indie flick), “Smother” suffers from a distinct “been there, done that” feeling to it. Not only have we seen a lot of the relationship issues in Keaton’s own films, but we’ve seen the stressful mother plenty of times in the past – from “Psycho” to “Monster-in-Law.” There’s a uniqueness gap in the writing of “Smother,” which explains itself in the behind-the-scenes documentary included on the disc: the story is partly autobiographical.

For an indie feature, it is impressive. I’ve been to a number of fiercely independent film festivals in which this would have won the grand jury prize. But up against the mainstream Hollywood features, “Smother” just never catches its breath.

In addition to the director’s commentary track, there is a behind-the-scenes featurette that, while a bit self-congratulatory, actually gives a nice peek at how the movie was cast and eventually made for a reasonable budget.

People looking for catharsis for their own mother problems.

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