Bringing Up Bobby (2011)
Directed by: Famke Janssen | 94 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Milla Jovovich, Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross, Rory Cochrane, Spencer List, Ray Prewitt, Phillip Borghee, Dan Corley, Renata Batista, Rick Eager, Lauren Analla, Justin Hall, Eric Starkey, Brandon E. Jackson, Jon Bielich
In ‘Bringing Up Bobby’, Milla Jovovich as the single mother Olive Younger, lies to give son Bobby a good life. But with this film, the Dutch actress Famke Janssen (‘X-Men’) as a debuting director does not leave a good impression. This shortcoming is partly due to the fact that it is hard to believe that Olive can so easily wrap her victims around her finger. For example, the accent that interpreter Milla Jovovich uses when Olive pretends to be French or Italian is too fake for words. Yet the single mother manages to get away with this wonderfully. The most absurd scam that Olive succeeds in is when she and her buddy Walt (Rory Cochrane) cheat a lot of money during a charity evening.
But apart from an annoying accent, the character Olive is rather one-dimensional. Why is she lying like that? The viewer does not get a satisfactory explanation for her life as a con artist. What does emerge is that Olive puts her son Bobby (Spencer List) above all else. He must fulfill her American dream and have a better future than herself.
It’s a shame that Jovovich’s acting seems contrived for most of the movie. The actress knows how to portray Olive’s motherly love towards Bobby really credibly when disaster strikes in the story of ‘Bringing Up Bobby’. Bobby (Spencer List) is hit by real estate dealer Kent Moody (Bill Pullman). Kent is relieved that the boy is still okay. He and his wife Mary (Marcia Cross) have themselves lost their son Jamie.
Instead of counting her blessings for still having her son, Olive doesn’t resist the temptation to make a financial profit out of this. She files a hefty claim with the insurance company. The events that follow give ‘Bringing Up Bobby’ some inspiration. But this happens very late: you are already well over half the playing time. The supporting roles of Bill Pullman (“Independence Day”) and Marcia Cross (“Desperate Housewives”) as Kent and Mary are refreshing after continuously seeing only Jovovich in combination with Cochrane and List. But Cross and Pullman’s game is also quite dull as the rich couple because their characters also remain on the surface. The best character in the film is Bobby, who is charmingly played by Spencer List. Especially the moment when Bobby kicks his mother’s friend Walt, is one of the few amusing events.
‘Bringing Up Bobby’ lacks the power to really make you laugh or cry as a viewer. The story and characters are too meaningless for that. Hopefully, Janssen will learn lessons from her directorial debut, because nothing like this is quickly forgotten as a viewer.