It might be a bit presumptuous to say this but I think it is safe to say that this is by far the best dramatic performance I have seen from Kevin Hart. The Upside was our introduction to a more dramatic Hart, and naturally, comedians move into a dramatic space at some point in their careers, mainly because some their comedy comes from the darkest places in their lives. This however was the best performance I have ever seen from him, and as a fan of Kevin Hart who has watched him from his straight to DVD days (who remembers Paper Soldiers) until now where he has a whole production company, I am so proud to witness this transformation.
Fatherhood is actually based on a New York Times bestselling book titled Matt, Liz and Madeline: Life and Death, All in a 27 Hour Period authored by Matthew Logelin. As tough as it is to say, this is a tragic story of how Logelin became a new father and a single father all in the same day when his wife suddenly passes hours after giving birth. What I found interesting was the fact that Channing Tatum was originally announced to play Matt. The author is a white man, but after seeing Hart execute this role, it would have been a disaster with Tatum at the helm.
What I think has been holding Hart back from giving us what we would deem as a perfect movie is often the heavy focus on the comedy and not the heart (no pun intended). He gives us a lot of comedy, but when it comes time to give us some drama or range, it seems a bit forced or mediocre. Fatherhood does a bit of the opposite. If anyone can recall some of Hart’s early stand-up where he talks about his mom’s funeral and his own father’s drug addiction, then the comedy during the funeral and thereafter will be reminiscent of that. I still had my moments where I laughed out loud and moments where I could see the makings of a man who could one day be nominated for an Oscar, if he stays on this path.
I loved that the daughter, Maddy, was a conventional little girl. She was way smarter than the adults around her, her father included, she wears boys underwear and prefers pants to a skirt. Melody Hurd is the actress that plays her and I see a bright future for her as well.
DeWanda Wise plays Liz AKA Swan, the love interest. Wise, in the roles I’ve seen her in, always plays the free-spirit with a weird sense of humor and it worked in contrast to Hart’s character who was a dad trying to raise his daughter his way despite the pleas from his and his wife’s family. He tried to be as strict and responsible as he could for Maddy and Liz was the first person who got him to let go a little.
The only thing I could say about this film that I wanted more of was Logelin’s mom. We saw her a couple time that seemed, for me, to be in passing. There was so much more of Alfre Woodard’s character, Marian, who was his late wife’s mother. I guess they shared the same grief more so than he and his mother but I figured we would see more of his mother being that she’s a woman and the next in line to help him raise his daughter.
Fatherhood is streaming now on Netflix and is a great watch for you and dad, you dad and mom or just dad–because he probably wants to be left alone with a beer anyway.