Mouthpiece makes some rather interesting storytelling decisions starting with the choice to have two people play the same character.
The film is based on a play written by stars Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. Both of them star as a thirty-year-old writer Cassandra Haywood. When her mother, Elaine (Maev Beaty), dies suddenly, she dives into a tailspin. Elaine had given up her career because of having children. This was supposed to be temporary but it’s not so much the case. For Cassandra, it is perfectly understandable to not know what to say at your mom’s funeral. The grief hits hard and there’s no doubt about it.
Cassandra is the very definition of a strong independent woman. However, this doesn’t quite sit well with the rest of her family. Despite owning some strong writing credentials, her family would rather she not write a eulogy for her mom. It’s a shame. The funeral arrangements in and of itself are overwhelming even though she’s not the only one family member grieving. Also involved in this sad set of circumstances are her brother, Danny (Jake Epstein), father, Chris (Ari Cohen), and her aunt Jane (Paula Boudreau). Whatever their reasons for not wanting Cassandra to speak have to do with a holiday party. She’s insistent but of course, they would rather her not speak.
There’s a quote from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that pops up in the film: “Women will not have equality until men are involved in raising the next generation.” Mouthpiece certainly has something to say about what feminism represents today and what it means to be a woman. There is, of course, the relationship between Elaine and Cassandra, too.
This is a film that could very well be a Disney film. I only say this because the mom gets killed off within minutes into the film. It’s practically a requirement for Disney films, mainly the animated cartoons, but I’m sure that you know what I mean here. The reality is that this is an independent film. It’s not Disney but the commentary writes itself.
There’s no denial that life gets a bit messy but from a narrative perspective, there’s some bold choices being made here. It’s frustrating if you’re looking for a simple narrative. To put it simply, Mouthpiece is certainly not a simple narrative. Not by a long shot! Still, you can’t help but admire this filmmaking team for telling this particular story. Both Nostbakken and Sadava play Cassandra almost in synchronicity. While there are certainly times when they’re not in sync, they almost always are.
DIRECTOR: Patricia Rozema
SCREENWRITERS: Patricia Rozema and Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava
CAST: Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava, and Maev Beaty