You can’t deny the power of actress Jennifer Lopez. Her latest feature, Netflix’s “The Mother,” has only been out for a week and has scored Netflix’s biggest opening weekend for a film of 2023 with 83.71 million hours viewed since its premiere. But the story of a Mother, played by Lopez, determined to protect the child she gave up for adoption at any cost, was a tough sell for Netflix.
When director Niki Caro was presented with the script, she asked the film’s producer, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, if the streaming giant would be open to it. For both, they understood that the film needed to hold its own alongside the male-dominated franchises like “The Bourne Identity” or Netflix’s own “Extraction.”
“This isn’t a 25-year-old character,” Goldsmith-Thomas told TheWrap. “And this isn’t a white woman. In the old days, that would be a white 25-year-old.”
The biggest sticking point, according to Goldsmith-Thomas, was the fact that Lopez’s character is a mother. Would audiences be able to respect and view Lopez as both a woman who dates multiple men, kicks ass AND gave birth? It’s a double-standard that Caro and Goldsmith-Thomas took seriously. “If you close your eyes and think about where mothers exist in movies: they exist in the kitchen. They exist in the car, they exist in the store, sometimes in the bedroom,” said Caro. “They’re likely an appendage to an existing character.”
Goldsmith-Thomas cites Netflix’s film chairman Scott Stuber as the man willing to greenlight the project. “It was Scott Stuber, who said yes. I have to give him a tremendous amount of credit for understanding the scope [of the film].” That scope is what’s paying off, with “The Mother” becoming the #1 movie in 82 countries.
What was also considered questionable is that the film situates Lopez’s character not only be a mercenary with no maternal instincts but one who engages in relationships with two men at the same time (played by Gael García Bernal and Joseph Fiennes). Caro called it “transgressive,” to give a character such sexual agency and freedom. “We want our mothers somehow to be asexual and saintly, and that is just not the case,” Caro said. “It was really refreshing to to make a movie with this kind of woman who owns her poor decisions. She’s no saint. She’s also no nurturer. But by God she’s a protector and a survivor.”
Goldsmith-Thomas compared the character through the lens of everyone’s favorite Lothario, James Bond, a character infamous for seducing a woman in every story and film he’s in. “[Look at] James Bond who was f–king somebody every other scene,” she said. “It’s the dawn of a different a different time for women.”
“The Mother” is streaming now on Netflix.