Comedies for and about women should be a wonderful thing, but as Katie Parker finds, these mums aren't bad, just mediocre.
Female-driven comedy has a bad, checkered history, mostly in the sense that there often isn't any. For every 20 male-centered comedies, there will be one starring women, but rarely made by them, which is touted by its marketing as some kind of female equivalent.
With every shift in the genre, it seems we lose a great deal of the progress we had seemingly made, and have to start again proving that women are as funny as men. The early 2000s sex comedy era brought us the god awful The Sweetest Thing. Then Pitch Perfect happened. Aubrey Plaza is always doing some stuff. The most recent actually good example is Bridesmaids, but that was a whole five years ago.
And so, it’s time again for yet another attempt get the women up to speed with the boys, and in this post Judd Apatow/Amy Schumer infected world, Bad Moms is what we get.
Written and directed by the men who wrote The Hangover (huge red flag), it’s about Amy (Mila Kunis), a working mother run off her feet by the demands of middle-class motherdom. She’s stressed! She’s unappreciated! She’s got no time for herself!
What an endearingly universal predicament. Except her life doesn't seem that bad? She works, but only part time, for a cool hip company; she only has time to exercise once a week, but still has an unbelievably hot bod; her husband is super random and bad, but he seems successful and for a couple that had their first child at 20, they have a lifestyle and a home nice enough to make their Auckland counterparts weep.
I know, I know, not even rich white people’s lives are perfect blah blah blah, but this isn't exactly American Beauty. Some quick fixes: don't eat spaghetti and drive; tell your kids to get the bus instead of driving them to school everyday; don't take your sick dog to work; and so on and so forth.
These fixes are apparently out of Amy’s scope, and after one PTA meeting too many she’s had enough. Enter fellow strung out mums Kiki and Carla, with whom she quickly forms a raging rebellious lady group (as we women are wont to do) and goes on some kind of rebellious lady spree.
HOWEVER: there are obstacles. Evil PTA witch Gwendolyn wants to STOP THE LADY FUN. She will stop at nothing, even sabotaging Amy’s 12-year-old’s soccer career as a way to make Amy pay for her new found liberation. Amy must fight! Amy must win! And with her new found female friendships, she can hold all kinds of giggly planning meetings to ensure her victory.
Which is great. There should be more movies, and certainly more comedies, that acknowledge mothers and women and the pressures and struggles we are up against in our everyday lives.
What we don't need more of is another movie telling us all these problems could be solved if we just stood up for ourselves. If we just beat that other bitch who annoys us. If we just somehow made our male partners do some of the stuff. Acquiescing? Just don't!
In Bad Moms, just vaguely rebelling can solve all manner of problems, from job dissatisfaction to emotionally abusive relationships. This rebellion involves: drinking; eating ~naughty~ foods; going to the movies and lunch with the girls; and blowing off your three-day-a-week job. If only we'd thought of it sooner!
There are so many ways Bad Moms could have been better, but I almost feel bad for criticising it because at least it sort of tried. It’s not a terrible idea, and in spite of some pretty flat execution, it’s not terrible to watch either. There are some funny bits, the actresses are committed, and it is trying to be woke, which is great.
But it’s just not enough. I’m not asking for bloody Vera Drake, but when you get this far away from reality, you have to wonder who you’re making your movie for. These women are as far away from normal motherhood as you can get, and it’s almost disturbing to see what a bunch of male writers think women’s greatest struggles are.
Yes, it’s good that they made a comedy for and about women, but let’s be real: no one is going to download this weak shit for their girl’s night. They’re gonna watch something that someone put some time and thought into which is actually funny, whether it’s funnelled toward their gender or not. This isn’t because we don’t care about representation; it’s because we have taste.
Bad Moms is in cinemas now.