Friday, July 29, 2016
BAD MOMS Illuminates the Plight of the Young, White, Privileged, Suburban Mom
I know when I think of young struggling mothers in America, I think of the ones living in Suburbia in their multi-floor houses and two-car garages, grappling with the demands of bake sales and full-time jobs. Don't you?
Okay so, no. Despite its need to constantly remind you of how hard it is for young white suburban moms desperate to live up to patriarchal standards of handling all domestic responsibilities, including having and raising the children, cleaning the house, and in some cases, making all the money, the only thing BAD MOMS manages to say is that they also know how to have a really great time when they allow themselves to.
And for what it's worth, it's also entertaining to watch them let loose for a change, down all the cereal in the grocery store aisle, skip parent-teacher meetings, and have sex on a weeknight--like groupies for the band, Twister Sister. Kathryn Hahn, who plays Carla, the devil-may-care single mom of the trio consisting of Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, is particularly hilarious. Her roughhouse antics are a perfect fit for Bell's cardigan-wearing, stay-at-home mom of four (Kiki) and Kunis's working mom of two (Amy) trying to balance it all as her relationship with her slacker husband (David Walton) crumbles before her eyes. On top of their maternal duties, Amy's new lifestyle has come under the intense scrutiny of the school mom gang led by Christina Applegate (along with her sidekicks played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo).
I suppose real-life white suburban moms would consider this escapist entertainment. And that's fine. But I think, while it's fun at times, it's mostly empty, forgettable, and emphasizes a white male perspective of unruly moms that is still pretty safe and predictable. The fact that BAD MOMS is written and directed by two white men (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) further emphasizes the point of view, which glosses over far more interesting and less normative narratives of hyper stressed moms--like the one who confiscates her son's weed and smokes it herself, the "mom" who attends parent-teacher meetings despite not being a mother, and the mom who would rather have sex with her female nanny than her husband. Coincidentally, those more interesting moms are marginalized as cameo appearances in one only scene in the film. I would have much rather seen those stories represented in our leading trio of women. The film would have been a lot less basic than it ultimately is.
Instead, BAD MOMS is exactly what you expect it to be. While it provides a vehicle for Kunis to finally play a mom onscreen, it has no substance; it doesn't say anything. And it has ample opportunity to do so (the characters are even already in the movie!). But, you know, the hunky Jay Hernandez is in it. So, that's something.
Rating: C (** out of *****)
BAD MOMS is now playing.