Film Review by Kam Williams
Mother-Daughter Documentary Chronicles Lifelong Dysfunctional Relationship
Although Gayle Kirschenbaum was raised in the comfy confines of suburban Five Towns on Long Island, her childhood was anything but ideal. Trouble is, she never felt loved by her mother, Mildred, who favored her three sons over the daughter she apparently never wanted.
Why wouldn't a woman want to bond with her only daughter? "I think she was jealous of you," one of Gayle's sibling's reflects. But could that explain why the mistreatment had ostensibly started at infancy?
"I feel like I'm adopted," reads a journal entry she wrote as an adolescent. And her mother freely admits to having punished her as a toddler by giving her time out on top the refrigerator. "She was a bitchy, little girl growing up," Mildred explains.
Furthermore, mom wasn't fond of the curly hair and prominent nose which gave Gayle "an ethnic look." And when you factor in a "loud, shrill and unpleasant personality," the poor girl was stuck under the thumb of a hyper-critical Mommy Dearest.
Unfortunately, for Mildred, her late husband's hobby was making home movies. And the reams of family footage he left behind are quite damning. There she is in her forties squeezing into a skimpy bathing suit, doing her best to upstage her bikinied daughter, radiant and full of the bloom of youth.
Gayle gets the last laugh in Look at Us Now, Mother, a documentary deconstructing their decades-long dysfunctional relationship. The film features a mix of those old family videos with the present-day reflections of Gayle, her mom, her brothers and other friends and relatives.
A fascinating airing of dirty laundry leading to an overdue reconciliation between a browbeaten daughter and her merciless abuser.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 84 minutes
Distributor: Kirschenbaum Productions
To see a trailer for Look at Us Now, Mother, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRmyOUfItjE