Usually the mere fact of a “mom movie” makes me cringe. Bad Moms make Bad Movies. I’m not a mother and I think more highly of the ones I know than to buy this whole “constant need to complain about the hardships of motherhood” bullshit. Which is not to say I think it’s easy. I just think it’s a choice. And that most of the mothers I know do a little bit of complaining and a little bit of boasting and a whole lot of being a regular person. If you hate your life so much, the LAST thing you should do is make a whiny movie about it so the rest of us are subjected to it too.
When Sean reluctantly fingered this title on Netflix, we did the math: I love Toni Colette + I like Katie Aselton + I hate Bridget Everett + I really hate Molly Shannon = an uncomfortable tipping toward the negative side. Not a great start. But the movie’s not a total write-off.
The Fun Moms go out for Fun Mom Dinners not to complain about being mothers but to complain about being wives, which is a fun twist. And it turns out that I don’t hate Bridget Everett in movies, I just hate her stand-up persona (she was in Patti Cakes too). Anyway, the fun part is in kind of short supply, and inconsistent. The movie kind of wavers between a bit of a good laugh and utter predictability. If I never see another girls-night karaoke montage, I’ll have lived a good life.
Bottom line: mothers deserve better from us, better than this “behaving badly” reputation we’ve lately given them in the movies. They’re women, and I guarantee you they have more going on than shitty diapers and dirty dishes. This movie, under the direction of Alethea Jones and the pen of Julie Rudd, actualy gets closer to normalcy, and to comedy, than most in its crummy little genre. This is one of the best Moms movies I’ve seen in a while, but that’s an unforgivably low bar.
Patricia, aka Patti Cake$, aka Killa P, is a wannabe rapper who’s finding it hard to escape the shitty confines of New Jersey. She’s only 23 but is already feeling like a failure. She works 2 jobs just to keep drowning in debt from her Nan’s medical bills. Her mother, a washed-up, alcoholic, hasbeen singer, is rife with jealousy rather than support. And the local rap community sees her as a non-starter and a bit of a joke. She’s got one friend, a pharmacist named Jheri, who believes in her dreams even as he pursues his own. But it’s only when they meet the mysterious Basterd, master of sick beats, that the music starts to really come together.
Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is an interesting character; her complexity means it takes a little convincing, but hanging in there pays off. Macdonald fills the character up the way Beyonce fills out a bodysuit. She’s just spectacular in this: spectacular, spectacular. You can’t make a movie like this without the perfect lead, and Danielle Macdonald is this movie’s soul mate, its one and only. But the rest of the cast falls into place perfectly too. Siddharth Dhananjay as Jheri is Patti’s perfect partner; perhaps an unlikely duo, but if the rap game is going to turn a cold shoulder on a white girl from Jersey, so too will it be tough for a brown boy pharmacist. But disenfranchised is disenfranchised and director Geremy Jasper paints an unflinching portrait. Meanwhile, Mamoudou Athie had already won my heart in Unicorn Store, so seeing him again here as Basterd solidifies his probable and swift rise to fame. Bridget Everett, Amy Schumer’s right hand man of comedy, rounds out the cast of Patti’s desperate mother, and strikes the right, harsh notes.
This is a classic underdog story that works its way through some familiar turns of plot. And sometimes it’s trying too hard. And yet I found there was very little I could not forgive this film. That’s how much it spoke to me, how very enchanted I was by Patti and her world. And if you like slightly offbeat films with offbeat characters, this is a fun indulgence.