REVIEW: Bad Moms
Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jada Pinkett-Smith
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On instinct, you will probably want to get all judgey about Bad Moms without actually having seen it. And if history is anything to go by, you wouldn’t usually be too far off the mark with this kind of 2-minute noodle cinema (cheap, easy, and without substance). It’s funny what can happen though, when your expectations of a genre are so low that you expect almost nothing. Bad Moms – against all expectations – is actually pretty solid.
Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) has a seemingly perfect life. She puts her family first, but her childish husband, demanding kids and idiot of a boss are finally getting to her. When the alpha mums, including PTA Queen Bee Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) at her kids’ school put on the pressure, Amy snaps and teams up with two other misfit mums (Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell) on a quest to free themselves from conventional responsibilities. They go on a well-deserved binge of freedom, fun and self-indulgence, ultimately redefining what a mum could and should be.
Right off the bat, this film passes The Bechdel Test, which is always an impressive accomplishment in itself, even in 2016. In fact, the primary male characters – a DILF and a complete idiot – are horribly one-dimensional, not to mention entirely unnecessary to the whole plot. It’s a nice change of pace and surprisingly progressive subject matter, made even more remarkable by the fact that these exclusively female experiences were written and directed by two men, John Lucas and Scott Moore.
While there’s nothing too spectacular about the direction, the writing should be commended. Initially, it seems like you might have to, you know, actually be a mum to get the jokes and find it relatable. But there are common experiences in this film for all; issues surrounding marriage and domesticity, careers in a millennial’s market, the pressure that we put on kids, gender expectations on both sides of the coin, and so on.
While there certainly are formulaic moments and predictable supporting characters, you can forget and forgive all that pretty quickly in light of what are some terrifically funny performances. Mila Kunis hits on some very real feels in her work here, as does Kristen Bell, with both managing to go between finding the punchline and owning the emotion of their character comfortably. But it’s freight-train, Kathryn Hahn, who totally hijacks this film. Hahn’s character has all the sensitivity of a starved pitbull, and she delivers her lines so naturally that you’d swear that she improvised them.
Let’s be clear though: Bad Moms isn’t winning any awards. While it is certainly progress, it’s not a watermark moment in feminist cinema. It won’t blow your mind or change your life, nor will it be making any “comedies to see before you die” lists on Buzzfeed. It is, however, a definite win, in that Hollywood seems to finally be realising that their female audiences are starving for content. Bad Moms isn’t great – but it isn’t bad either.