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Mother and Child

Drama about adoption features good performances

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Adoption -- and its impact on both mother and child -- is the center around which three stories revolve in Rodrigo Garcia's ensemble drama set in Los Angeles. Karen (Annette Bening) is a brittle 50-year-old, still haunted by the baby she gave up as a teen-ager; she lives with her failing mother and the unresolved issue sits between them like an unwanted guest. On the other hand, Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), who grew up an adopted child, resents her situation. Though a successful attorney, her personal life suggests a self-destructive streak. (She has no qualms about bedding her boss.) In a somewhat happier place is Lucy (Kerry Washington), who is in the midst of completing her marriage by adopting a soon-to-be-born baby. As expected, the stories begin to intertwine with and inform each other. For a while, Mother unfolds as a satisfying (if slightly soapy) drama that gives these actresses meaty roles. Bening is particularly fine as the hard-to-like Karen, and there's good supporting work from Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits. But somewhere in the final third, the plot gets noticeably contrived, and the dialogue more pedantic. (It also resolves using some vintage plot twists I'd expect in a Bette Davis weeper.) Thus, I found myself less engaged as the film progressed, but the performances still salvage most of the experience. Starts Fri., June 11. Manor

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