Bad Moms

I was interested in what this might offer up in terms of problems and solutions – and maybe there’d be some laughs. There were a few chuckles. The problem was presented pretty clearly, and I think most would agree that there’s a serious burden of expectation on women, and on mothers in particular. That expectation is essentially to deny themselves whenever doing so would help or benefit their children or spouse. While this might have gone unchallenged as a virtue several generations ago, when hard work and independence were values parents wanted to instil in their children, it doesn’t suit a culture that has turned busyness, helicopter parenting, self-realisation and careerism into necessary virtues.

Men really do need to wake up to how much more pressure women face, and how much more selfless work they do. Women have it much harder than men, in life, and in this film. Husbands in this story are man-children, autocrats or absent, OR smoking hot widowers. I’m not sure if those ratios are close to reality, but they do present common types and it seems it actually quite acceptable for men to be 1) gone, 2) an extra child, 3) domineering (while also possibly 2) or 4) interested, accepting and loving, in other words, a partner.

Sadly the chuckles come from a few good gags rather than cleverness. The film is mostly a meander through taxing situations, to childish rebellion against cardboard villains, driven more by incoherent wish fulfilment and escape than toward a goal. The over-stated message is that too much pressure is put on moms to be “perfect”, this burden is unhealthy and unsustainable, and moms need to rebel to determine what works for them, their kids and their partners. If it doesn’t work for your partner in life – then maybe they’re not your partner-in-life, and your lives would be better if you stopped pretending.

Penultimately it shows wisdom when honest talk about one’s failings and hopes penetrates the facade of performance and the hero and villain simply become two open women, telling their stories, struggling to hold it together and find what works for them. But this is a moment of clarity unrepresentative of the film. Ultimately and throughout the only solutions the film offers is dependent on unlimited wealth.

Pamper yourself. Drive the vintage, mint sports car. Go out for drinks and dinner again and again. Host a massive party. Go to the spa. Go to the movies. Spend. Spend. Spend. How about a private jet for a happy ending? Such blissful ignorance to the reality that the lack of disposable income is actually the highest cause of stress in families trying to make things work. One wonders if the major investors in this film were credit companies.

To frame the economic problem: Our hero works half time. There’s no indication that she’s ever worked full time because she had kids when she was twenty and has been a “good” mom ever since. Her man-child husband manages a few exhausting mortgage broker meetings a week and comes off as a freeloader because it’s “her” house. As per usual in Hollywood, her house is basically a show home. They have three cars, one of which is the vintage sports car. Though she does sneak into the spa, the words “I can’t afford that,” never leave her mouth. Ironically there’s a scene where she explains privilege and entitlement to her son, unaware that, despite their sorrows, they live on the tip of the entitlement iceberg.

So it’s a fantasy, right down to the perfect man immediately stepping in to fill her emotional and sexual needs, the not quite saving grace of which is that it helpfully invites women to challenge harmful expectations, talk honestly, pursue health and happiness, and thereby position themselves to take better care of themselves, and their loved ones. Perhaps its worse failing is that instead of offering any clever new takes on rebellion it can only imagine and repeatedly throw up montage after montage of drinking & dancing to The Loud Music.