Directed By Paul Weitz
Starring – Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Lil Rel Howery
The Plot – A father (Hart) brings up his baby girl (Melody Hurd) as a single dad after the unexpected death of his wife who died a day after their daughter’s birth.
Rated PG-13 for some strong adult language, and suggestive material
– Ensemble depth. This is certainly an eye-opening performance for Hart, who trades in the familiarity of his comedic timing for a dramatic registry that measures his talents in ways no previous film capably has. Because of such, Kevin is able to shed perception while emoting through a characterization that is every bit honest in frailty as it is bountiful in heart, granting us no shortage of watery eyes to what I feel is his single best performance to date in terms of challenging the unconventional that has previously had him stuck in place for the better part of two decades. Hart is joined by nine-year-old Melody Hurd, who dons the endless charisma that Hart is known for, and unloads it on a script that affords her no shortage of scene-stealing instances. Hurd’s delivery doesn’t feel wooden or staged by direction off-screen, instead inspiring with various subtleties and nuances for the character that cements an authenticity despite the various measures of meandering production that are working against her endless talents.
– Intriguing story. The story itself is based on a memoir called “Two Kisses For Maddie”, so in that framing device we the audience are treated to a lot of situations in the aspect of all male parenting that values the male figure in ways that very few films these days capably do, especially black ones, unfortunately. So it’s refreshing to see a film that does capably illustrate the dynamic between father and daughter appropriately, particularly with the concepts of a man raising a girl, in which the former doesn’t comprehend things about the latter that she needs for her own survival. In addition, there’s a captivation on the importance of fatherhood that I feel is exceptionally rendered in the film, taking a character like Hart’s, who himself grew up without a father, and then breaking the cycle with a responsibility for doing what’s right that really articulates the air of promise in this family’s capabilities. It successfully tackles many emotional beats because of the hollow ground that very few other films unfortunately don’t tackle in the meat of their material, making “Fatherhood” one of those quintessential films that I hope will break convention in a world outlining a bigger problem of absence within these dynamics.
– Revealing commentary. “Fatherhood” has plenty to say beyond its difficulties associated with one parent families that it emits in matters pertaining to grief, exhaustion, and male masculinity in the vantage point of the public eye. What’s most satisfying in this respect is the way the script takes ample time to point these measures out, reflecting a mirror of humility for society that often follows an abundance of familiar signs in order to embody deliveries that are anything but sensitive in selfish context. Such examples site strangers in public constantly asking Hart’s character where the mother is, others capture the awkwardness of uncomfortable atmosphere where everyone mentally is sharing the same thoughts, but their deliveries feel anything other than synonymous with one another. This is illustrated with an air of nourishing comedic enveloping that offers moments of satisfying levity for the context of the atmosphere, all the while zeroing in on the strange traditions associated with human interaction that serve as several of the monumental challenges that Hart’s character, as well as single dads everywhere, face while living in a society that is constantly judging them.
– Meaningful stitching. There’s certainly an obviousness to what the movie’s editing schemes are trying to convey in the context of each scene, stitched together with an abruptness for time, aging, and storytelling sequencing that evidently serves to boost the spontaneity of life’s thunderous speed. This occasionally throws the audience off in ways that the passage of time is conveyed in visualization within the storytelling, often breezing through events and circumstances that come and go with very little to no warning in the absence of on-screen text, but it grants an air of enriched poignancy in the value of days and events that outline the greatest gifts in parenthood, and casts an air of urgency to the narrative that is artistically satisfying in the feelings and emotions that it is trying to convey, all the while without sacrificing the intrigue and importance of the sequences sandwiched in between that give us insight as to where our two leads stand at any particular place in time.
– Tonal consistency. Considering there’s a lot going on emotionally in this film, both with the sharpness of the occasional dramatic tension and the levity instilled with exhaling humor, it’s a bit surprising that the atmosphere in the film is solidified with an air of consistency that elevates each section when needed, without sacrificing the importance of one over the other. Because this is a drama-first film, it’s that area of tone that dominates the foreground of the narrative, complete with an attention to focus in the importance of the material that constantly maintained my attention, and reserved those moments of humor for the times when they could responsibly be rendered as afterthoughts in the context of the tense atmosphere in search of release. Very few films balance the best of both worlds for the enhancement of their property, but Weitz and fellow screenwriter Dana Stevens understand and convey the movements of life’s many emotional beats with a maturity for Weitz (American Pie, Antz, Little Fockers) which, like Hart, is a welcome addition to his newest feature.
– Mixed results. As to where Hart and Hurd provided depth to their respective characters, as well as an over abundance of heart throughout the narrative, the support in supporting is virtually non-existent in a big name cast that are unfortunately wasted. Alfre Woodard, Frankie Faison, and even Lil Rel Howery come and go with a complete lack of emphasis or attention to their respective characters, ultimately diminishing the adaptability to elements outside of this father/daughter dynamic during sequences of transition in between. This is forgettable for two of the three, considering their respective careers are often based on appearance value exclusively, but for Woodard, a legend of black cinema for many decades, it’s simply inexcusable, especially considering a majority of the first act sets her and Hart up for an inevitable confrontation that comes, but comes with nothing in the way of anything that is even remotely climactic to the degree that the climax requires.
– Overtly bloated. Even at 107 minutes, this film feels like it’s around twenty minutes long, and entirely condemning to a pacing scheme that never finds its feet of consistency for the experience. Most of the problem stems from the second and third acts of the movie, which emit a repetitive nature of storytelling for the older half of Maddie’s life depiction that often spend too much time in one area, and not enough in another. For my money, this is the area of the film when some more outside influence of the supporting characters would’ve done wonders in enhancing the importance of their characters, all the while taking the shoulder of responsibilities off of Hart and Hurd, considering one or both of them are involved in every single scene throughout the film. There was never a point when I was bored by the film, just disinterested in where the meat of its material remained grounded, granting an experience that feels like the first cut of a studio post-edit.
– Emotionally manipulative. Unfortunately, my biggest problem with tear-jerking drama’s becomes resonant in “Fatherhood”, and stands as a result of a couple of measures of untimely production that over-exceed their boundaries, in terms of halting the movie’s rich authenticity. In particular, the musical score from composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, the same man responsible for ear-shattering decibels in “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman”, which here pumps enough volume and annoyingly vapid measures of instrumental influence to unabashedly enhance intention in every sequence he treads on. This is a disservice to the actors, particularly Hart, whose somber deliveries and watery eyes were enough to sell meaning in the context of what the scene called for, but is instead a victim to Williams meandering unsubtleties. In addition to this, some scenes burn on for far too long, letting the impact of the events materialize and ground themselves in the minds of the audience, and then hammering it home to frustrating levels of emphasis, for how long we’re left waiting before we’re able to move on from it.
– Sloppy writing and direction. Weitz erratic sequencing often has this film feeling like it was pieced together at the last minute, especially considering the sequencing of his events stitches itself between three respective timelines that periodically weave in and out of one another, to the confusion of the audience. From there, it’s the clean cut way of problem solving that the film has, maintaining Hart and Hurd’s dynamic with a complete lack of psychological duress or monumental problems that surface as a result of the absence of a female presence to both of their lives. Any semblance of conflict that this screenplay can muster up is often for the temporary, and solved fifteen minutes later without a shred of life-changing circumstance for what comes from it. Finally, the script itself is full of compromising misfires, especially in the areas previously mentioned with its supporting characters, but also in the series of conversations between them that periodically don’t go anywhere. One such example is with Howery’s character, who deviates between his own emotional problems that we never fully project towards anything meaningful in the depiction of his character, as well as a conversation with Hart’s on-screen mother that drowns on without reaching a punchline or anything remotely compelling to spend so much time on it. In my interpretation, most of the problem seems to stem from this film about black families being written by two white writers, ultimately failing to capture the kind of authenticity to sell the originality of its depiction.
My Grade: 6/10 or C