“In this day and age, it’s impossible to be a good Mom.”
Bad Moms unfolds as a comedy of errors, not in the classical Shakespearean sense, but as a film that embraces the humor of human incapacity. That’s not to say these mothers are incapable of fulfilling their duties defined by outsiders. Simply, they’re tired of the restraint, acting out not just to be raunchy but to let loose the release valve sealed on their restricted maternal roles. It’s a fairly poorly made movie behind the camera, but when you are able to distance yourself from the brick and mortar structure, you find a winning film that rides the coattails of its three hilarious leads. Mothers try very hard, which is why Bad Moms puts equal effort into being just as funny and caring. Few films in 2016 have made me laugh out loud as much as this one.
Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) plays the Matriarch. She’s overworked at a part-time job for a coffee company, out of love with her slovenly husband, unable to please her two kids. Amy’s like a Renaissance Mom without the gentle brush stroke to paint her envisioned masterpiece. A day from hell causes reconsideration on that portrait though, standing up to the helicopter parent Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) at a PTA meeting and gaining the friendship of two other outsider mothers. Carla (Kathryn Hahn) plays the sexually driven divorcée. Kiki (Kristen Bell) is the friendless stay at home babysitter for her own children. Bad Moms starts too slowly, then becomes a prime example of how character driven performances can elevate stock material. The film is perfectly cast, and if you haven’t heard of Hahn before now, I’d bet you all have a new girl-crush. She steals every moment.
In their first night out, guzzling Scotch at a bar then getting groceries for Kiki, Bad Moms lays the film’s entire hand. It’s a straight flush. The three are drunk, out of line, causing a riot, until they see a baby in the freezer section. A storm settles for them to find peace in the connection they have with their own children. Had this been titled Bad Dads, the film probably would have made a joke about the mother pushing the stroller and zoomed in on her breasts, but Bad Moms rises above such low objectification to occasionally show the true hearts of these women. Some might think that the movie’s own title embraces mediocrity or worse. In contrast, the story becomes a literal fantasy vehicle (including an old muscle car) that transports us around a dream landscape, where pent-up mothers get to free themselves of judgement without the fear of being judged for that very action. The burden is no longer theirs to solely bear.
I feared when I saw that the film was written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, best known for The Hangover trilogy and a number of other borderline misogynistic comedies. The movie itself looks absolutely horrendous, the lens always overexposed and in dire need of a competent cinematographer. But what a joy it is to see these two filmmakers write a script with such funny situations, then further allow this talented trio to throttle the comedy meter up by their remarkable work improvising lines and interactions. At one point Kiki wears a hoodie so Carla can explain to Amy what it’s like to sleep with an uncircumcised man, and the scene had me in a fit of tears. Bad Moms stumbles when it forgets to shoot for funny, but besides that, it’s a side-splitting walk in the park. All the embellishment never makes it feel any less rooted in reality, because this is truth, and the truth is hysterical.
“Moms don’t quit.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5