Here's a British made-for-TV movie from 2007. It's based on a #1 international best selling book, (per the DVD cover) and follows three generations of 'bad mothers' on the fabled Isle. While certainly we don't want to celebrate bad mothers, the term is used loosely here, and we'll get into that later. Oh yeah, did I mention that Robert Pattinson has a role? Squeee! OMG, Robert Pattinson! A year before his starring turn in Twilight! Must be why a British TV movie about teen pregnancy is just now getting a DVD release in the States.
I'll pretend Robert Pattinson is just some regular old actor, opting to simply review the movie. Karen Cooper (Catherine Tate) is a struggling single mother, with a lippy, sexually active daughter, Charlie (Holliday 'Holly' Grainger) and her own senile mother all living under the same roof. It's a tough life, made more difficult by the fact that Karen can't seem to enjoy anything on her own recognizance. Would that she hadn't gotten knocked up as a teenager, the same fate in which her careful daughter now finds herself trapped. (Remember kids, the only safe sex is no sex.) Luckily, Charlie meets a dorky boy named Daniel (Pattinson - oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!) who, like most dorky boys, is willing to drop everything in order to help out a pretty girl.
In all, Bad Mother's Handbook is engaging and sweet, though it definitely feels like a TV movie. Tate, Grainger and others perform ably and with realism. Males are mostly left to play for laughs however, which is OK, since the message here is one of female empowerment in the face of sincere difficulty. It's no secret that mothers, somehow, still bear the brunt of responsibility for raising kids, and it's nice to see strong, capable women handling less than ideal circumstances.
Don't expect super-charged drama. Though director Robin Sheppard moves action stylishly, gliding from trouble to trouble and generation to generation with slick edits - Charlie for instance, asks a question of her 'planned parenthood' advisor, and an answer to a different question is given to Karen as the plot moves along. On the other hand, dramatic revelations are frequently telegraphed by swooshing noises and clunky zoom shots of shocked faces - a conceit that might be satirical, or might just be clumsy. It's clear that the men, though sincere and well intentioned, are meant mostly to generate laughs. But what's up with Pattinson? (How dare you!) His gawky geek is like a weird Harry Potter/ Doctor Who hybrid, with square glasses, too many scarves, and some sort of scoliotic hunch, which keeps his shoulders near his ears at all times. He's cute, I suppose, (damn right!) but if I were a right-minded girl, I'd run from his bumbling tics with a quickness.
If you've got a British teenage daughter on the crux of sexual activity, this frank, 70-minute movie delivers its message with wit, realism, and a distinct lack of pandering, even if it seldom rises far above average for TV fare. However, if you just have to see everything that dreamy old Pattinson has ever been in, this isn't exactly a star vehicle for the glittery one - though it points up how well he does an American accent in those vampire movies. As a public service movie on a bare-bones DVD, Bad Mother's Handbook merits a Rent It recommendation, but as a Pattinson cash-grab, I'd advise only the most heartsick to check it out.