'Raising Helen' Pays Tribute to Moms

Attention, mothers: If you think you're not appreciated enough at home, you might want to go and see Garry Marshall's latest film.

In Raising Helen, the filmmaker details the struggles of parenthood through the eyes of someone who becomes a parent quite unexpectedly. Kate Hudson plays a Manhattan party girl who gets custody of three children when her sister is killed in a car accident.

The freewheeling modeling agency worker is suddenly dealing with disciplining a teenage girl, raising a young boy, and teaching a 5-year-old to tie her shoes. She gets some parenting tips from her other sister, an experienced mom played by Joan Cusack.

"It's like a love letter to single mothers because it's hard and it's everywhere," Hudson told reporters while promoting the movie in New York.

Since wrapping the movie, Hudson herself became the mother of a baby boy, Ryder Russell Robinson, with husband Chris Robinson. She says she has a lot of respect for mothers who go it alone. "I personally have a lot of single-mother girlfriends who have to keep it together."

Director Marshall said the script appealed to him because it demonstrated realistic family struggles. "My aim in life was not to necessarily make a hit. I just did two hits, Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries. … I said, good, I can make a nice picture now," he said.

"I said I would like to make something that's closer to me. …. And since I grew up with sisters and I have daughters, both married with children," motherhood seemed like the right subject.

"I think motherhood is a very difficult job these days, so I was trying to salute parents," said Marshall.

The heart of the comedy is the tough-talking suburban mom played by Cusack. She doles out plenty of love while making sure her house is in proper order. It's not a glamorous role, but it is an important one, Cusack said.

"It's not that cool, it's kind of irritating, which moms and dads can be sometimes," she said. "But really, they have your best interests at heart sometimes, and it's nice to be in a part where you get to play that, and have the more meaningful thing outweigh the 'cool' factor.' "

Career Mom Cusack

Playing a mom was a familiar role for Cusack, who lives in Chicago with her husband and two small sons. She last appeared in School of Rock, and said she's reluctant to take roles that pull her away from her family for too long a period of time.

"It winds up being what will work with the kids and my family, can I bring something meaningful to it that I can relate to, even if it's a small role," said Cusack.

She may be a career mom, but Cusack admitted she partly chose Raising Helen because filming "was during my kids' spring break." It also gave her the chance to work with Marshall, who has a reputation for running an entertaining set.

"I always make the process fun," said Marshall. "I have a good time no matter what."

Kate or Goldie?

Hudson first experienced Marshall's filmmaking style as a young girl, on the set of his 1987 comedy Overboard.. She ran around on the set while her mother, Goldie Hawn, and surrogate dad Kurt Russell shot their scenes.

Marshall said he realized the only way to get the girl to stay out of his way was to put her to work, letting her yell "Action!" and "Cut!"

Now that he's worked with a grown-up Hudson, Marshall says he sees plenty of similarities between the actress and her mother — even accidentally calling for "Goldie" when he meant "Kate." Marshall said it's an embarrassing goof, but an easy one to make.

He said it was a "pleasure" to work with Hawn's daughter, and he hopes one day to work with a third generation. "She just had the baby. I'm waiting to work with Ryder, we'll do a picture together," said Marshall.

His legacy points to an ability to spot talent, from TV sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley to films including Pretty Women. He calls himself a sports nut who enjoys the competition of the box office, but these days he has just one mark to rate success.

"It's really about health," said Marshall. "I have no complaints I think if you've got some health you can do anything. If it's a hit or it's not, what's the difference?"