August 30, 2016

Bad Moms (2016)

Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell



I never read A Tale of Two Cities, but this movie is a tale of two motherhoods: one in which moms strive to be perfect and shield their little snowflakes from any disappointment or discomfort; the other in which moms put self-care front and center and let their kids sort things out for themselves. Doing the latter, apparently, makes you a "bad mom."

So ignoring the sort of offensive terminology for the way some of us already parent (ahem, ahem), the movie speaks pretty bluntly to the challenges of motherhood. I'd be politically correct and say "parenthood," but frankly, it's not the same. Dads - even stay-at-home dads - just don't have the same societal expectations placed upon them that this movie quite poignantly addresses. This movie is a mainline into the average mom's brain.

This isn't just a movie to giggle at with mom friends after having a few drinks, though that's certainly been a selling point of the experience. I don't actually know anyone who has seen it who isn't a parent, though the stoned 20-something couple behind me in the theater certainly didn't enjoy it as much as I did. And judging from their loud commentary, they didn't understand it either.

The movie premise isn't difficult or even very complex--Mila Kunis is an unbelievably hot mom of middle-school aged kids (ok, I added that part because really, what mom looks like Mila Kunis after having 2 kids?) who basically has a breakdown trying to "do it all" and decides to rebel against the expectations of her fellow moms, her family, and even herself. The movie's appeal is in making jokes about the mundane and ridiculous everyday crap of motherhood. Mom bras? Bake sale restrictions? Grocery shopping without kids? Check, check, check. Many of the jokes are pretty safe but entertaining, but it does have a couple moments of rolling-in-the-aisle laughter which is more than can be said for most comedies.

The rest? Well, the rest is sort of depressing. Many of the issues and stresses of relationships and work and parenting depicted in the movie are a little too realistic at times. Fighting with a spouse about household duties? Failing at work because of childcare obligations? Secretly wishing you were injured in an accident so you could rest in a hospital by yourself? Check, check, check. Even when done in a cheesy and over-the-top kind of way, the message of "moms struggling against expectations" still rings through enough for viewers to relate to it.

But naturally, I couldn't ignore the fact that this is a pretty white, middle-class storyline. Sure, Jada's in it (and not ruining the movie!), but all the moms are white and the way they deal with their problems tends to be pretty... suburban. I know it's just a movie, and it's marketed to capture the largest swath of people, so I'm not going to ask why they couldn't have cast one of the main characters as a person of color (oops, I guess I just did), but if you don't fit neatly in the demographic box this movie was clearly written to appeal to I can't say whether or not you'll like it. Which really, I'm ok with. Women deserve their own movies, especially comedies, whose success doesn't hinge upon whether or not male audiences will watch it.

Final word: A bit safe, but makes for an entertaining night out for middle-class moms.

P.S. I hate the idea of agreeing with Michael Bay on, well, anything, but I will say the attractiveness of Mila Kunis is sort of distracting and maybe this is petty, but does ever so slightly diminish my sympathy for her character. She doesn't appeal to me as an "average" mom. Unlike men, who seem to enjoy movies where below average-looking men land women who are completely out of their league (see: anything by Adam Sandler or Judd Apatow), women only get paired with hot men if they, too, are hot. And I look nothing like Mila Kunis. Luckily, I am able to exercise my imagination and put myself in her place. =)



August 22, 2016

Sausage Party (2016)

Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, et al




I don't want to open by saying this a stupid movie, because that would be overly dismissive of the things it got right. But it certainly seemed as though Seth Rogen wanted to make it as stupid as possible.

Let me clarify: I strongly dislike Seth Rogan. And by that, I mean I hate him. I hate the characters he plays, I hate the movies he's in, and I really, really hate listening to his voice. So I probably would have automatically liked this movie more had literally anyone else voiced the main sausage, Frank.

Alas, I was not so lucky, so the movie was spent imagining his dopey face making sexually suggestive passes at a hot dog bun voiced by Kristen Wiig, who apparently could not stop herself from doing that thing where she half sings her lines. Ever since I read this article, I can't stop wondering how many actors force screenwriters to write in little character quirks to match the actor's "trademark." Ugh.

Voice acting aside (don't even get me started on the casting of Michael Cera), the movie had potential. Considering the number of Biblical epics Hollywood makes us sit through, it was refreshing to see an unapologetic representation of atheism. It was cleverly done by using food and human consumption of it as an allegory for faith and religion. 

BUT, I also feel inclined to say that this movie does no favors to the prevailing feeling that atheists are smug and condescending towards people of faith. (Not saying it doesn't also often go the other way.) People take religion very seriously and while I understand this is sort of a silly movie, it tackles a pretty hefty topic and I wish they had treated it with a touch more reverence for a more effective message.

I realize how asinine that sounds considering yes, I am talking about a movie that features animated food items talking about boning each other every five seconds. The humor, while occasionally showcasing some brilliance in the use of puns and cultural stereotyping, mostly consists of dick jokes and stuff Seth McFarlane would find funny. I guess my appreciation of humor extends beyond what a stoned frat guy would find funny. But I suppose I should have known I wasn't its target audience when every preview beforehand was for a horror movie.

All in all, the movie was certainly interesting and different enough to hold my attention. I think it was quirky and silly and yes, very stupid. But also funny. Maybe I would have had a different opinion of it had I been completely stoned, much like the writers probably were when they wrote this.

Final word: It's a love it or hate it type of movie. And the ending is fucking weird.