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If laughing at ‘Bad Moms’ is wrong, I don’t wanna be right

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Wondering if seeing the new movie Bad Moms in Singapore is worth your precious mama time? Check out Sassy Mama’s review…

A few days ago, my colleagues and I were invited to attend a special sneak preview of the new film Bad Moms, a borderline-raunchy comedy from the writers of The Hangover. The best part of Bad Moms is precisely that raunchiness: women aren’t perfect – and that’s ok! In fact it’s absolutely normal to acknowledge our own needs and desires even if they sometimes come into conflict with those of our beloved children, spouses or employers. Men do it all the time! It feels nice to have this validated in an era of never-ending mommy wars.

Even more than with The Hangover, Bad Moms requires you to suspend a decent amount of disbelief, but I’ll get to that in a second. The plot is straightforward enough: Amy (Mila Kunis) is a working mother of two with an over-demanding job and a slob of a husband who doesn’t pitch in around the house. She feels pressure on all sides, including from the too-perfect mean girls (Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett-Smith) who head up her children’s parent teacher association (the mafia-like PTA).

Only when her world comes crashing down in various ways and she joins forces with fellow overtaxed moms Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (a hilarious Kathryn Hahn, who totally steals the show), does Amy feel empowered to acknowledge that it’s ok to not be perfect, which ultimately improves her relationships and strengthens her kids’ independence.

BAD MOMS

I feel like it’s a catch-22 to criticize how moms are portrayed in this context, but I found Mila Kunis to be highly distracting and unbelievable as Amy, who allegedly gave birth to her two preteen kids at the age of 20 and half-heartedly tells us that she manages to exercise “maybe once a week”, and yet looks like … Mila Kunis, with no wrinkles, nary a hair out of place and perfect makeup at all times. There’s admittedly a pretty funny joke about what constitutes a “sexy bra” in mom terms, but again I found this kind of unbelievable – if she can manage to own three different pairs of stylish ankle boots, I think she’d probably have more than two ugly bras.

Any quibbles I have with Kunis, though, are far outweighed by the dynamic performances from Kristen Bell (playing a beleaguered stay-at-home mom of 4 who apparently doesn’t have time to wash her hair until the movie’s final scene) and Kathryn Hahn as a bombastic, booze-swilling single mom with a righteous potty mouth. (To continue the Hangover parallels, Hahn is this film’s Zach Galifinakis, turnt up to 11).

a scene from the movie bad moms

By all objective standards, Hahn’s character really is a bad mom: she admits to never giving her son vegetables and doing drugs in his presence, among many other sins. And yet her endless cache of one-liners (just try to not laugh as she explains circumcision) totally carries the movie. Kristen Bell, who’s been excellent in everything dating back to her days as teenage private eye Veronica Mars, is a surprisingly nimble physical comedienne, and feels like the most believable and lived-in of all the characters.

My colleague Syazana cites Kiki’s “fantasy” of getting in a car crash (“not killed, but badly injured enough that I have to spend a few days in the hospital”) as one of the movie’s funniest scenes. What mama doesn’t fantasize about doing nothing but simply sleep and watch TV, 100% guilt-free?

Both Syazana and our co-worker Carlijn also called out the movie’s keen eye for mama tribes; another one of Hahn’s funniest scenes is when she rattles off the various factions of the PTA: the tiger moms, the attachment moms, the lean-in moms, the crazy organic food moms, the moms who used to be dads…as outlandish as the movie was I think everyone in the audience was nodding their head with a kernel of recognition for that part. The only way to get through this crazy parenting rollercoaster is to find our people, you know?

Upon further reflection, it’s clear that all of these moms seem to be socioeconomically upper middle class. While Bad Moms takes on heady topics like divorce and work-life balance, the stakes don’t feel particularly high in comparison to the problems millions of real-life moms have to deal with, like finding affordable childcare, or paying the rent, or having enough money to pay for food. Of course, that same criticism could be levelled at 99% of what’s on TV so I’ll just let it go for now.

bad-moms-movie-poster-finger

While I think the movie relies a bit too heavily on musical montages, one of the best is a moms-gone-wild PTA mixer-turned-rager where almost everyone gets drunk on white wine and they end up having a massive dance party. (“I love that there are two hijabi moms partying like a mother – they are my spirit animal and I will totally be like that some day!” Syazana enthuses).

This scene was so cathartically refreshing and truly made me wonder, why don’t moms ever get to have parties like that? (Stay tuned for our next mama meet up – HA!).

At the other end of the ridiculous fantasy scale is how men are portrayed in Bad Moms – is there something less than one-dimensional? David Walton as Amy’s schlubby husband and Jay Rodriguez as “hot widower dad” eye candy are almost a distraction in how unbelievable their characters are, although cameos by Wendell Pierce and American football superstar JJ Watt both made me chuckle.

To invoke one of my all-time favorite movies, Clueless, I’d say Bad Moms is kind of “a Monet”: from far away it’s good but up close it’s a bit of a mess. And yet I would totally recommend it to any mom in need of a good laugh, because overall it’s hilarious and fairly bold and features some really strong individual performances by talented actresses. Plus let’s face it: motherhood can be messy, and the more that can be normalized and reinforced in popular culture, the better. Now excuse me, I’m off to find a glass of wine…

Bad Moms is playing at theatres across Singapore; check your local cinema for listings.

www.gv.com.sg

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