Tag Archives: Lucy Liu

Stage Mother

Maybelline Metcalf (Jacki Weaver) is pretty much what you imagine when you hear the name – conservative, christian, Texan. She’s the church choir director, a good friend, dutiful wife, and what the hell, a little catty. She’s also shocked and heart broken to learn that her only child is dead – a gay son who’s been estranged and battling addictions since he left for San Francisco years ago.

Though husband Jeb is determined to continue on as if they never had a son at all, Maybelline’s grief and regret lead her to San Francisco where she finds Rickey’s funeral is not quite to her taste. Her son’s drag family is performing their tribute to him and it’s all a little much for this mother who has never before claimed her son in public. Her clear disdain makes a bad first impression with her son’s grieving and offended boyfriend, Nathan (Adrian Grenier), who is suspicious of her sudden appearance. He suspects she’s come sniffing around for an inheritance, and indeed there is one since Nathan and Rickey were never married – the drag bar where everyone performs. The bar isn’t doing well with Rickey gone, so instead of going home, Maybelline inexplicably stays and not only whips the bar into shape, but nurtures the acts of Rickey’s drag family.

There is a heart ache to this film as Maybelline is clearly transferring the love and acceptance she was never able to show her son unto the surrogates she finds at the bar. And what a tragic comment on society that so many at the bar are indeed in need of mothering, even if it’s from someone else’s mother.

Director Thom Fitzgerald chooses not to have Maybelline wallow in self-recrimination; instead, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Perhaps being useful and creating ties to her son’s chosen family is the only way she can cope. But overall, the film doesn’t carry a dark or heavy tone, it capitalizes on drag’s new mainstream status and concentrates on making things pretty and tuneful. The other drag performers are not much more than caricatures, but this is not about the resilient queer community of San Francisco, it’s about a traditional wife rejecting her husband’s bigotry and learning to judge based on the values in her own heart instead. Stage Mother is a bit old-fashioned, perhaps a bit dated in tone, but the movie’s upbeat feel combined with a terrific performance from Weaver makes Stage Mother a worthy watch.

Set It Up

Two harried, 20-something assistants work for different demanding bosses in the same Manhattan building. Harper (Zoey Deutch) admires her boss, Kirsten (Lucy Liu), who is a sports reporter. Harper wants to be a writer too but so far she spends her days fetching lunch and racking up steps on Kirsten’s fitbit. Charlie (Glen Powell) is eagerly awaiting his promotion but is still just Rick’s (Taye Diggs) overworked assistant. When Harper and Charlie meet in the lobby of their building, they determine that the only way to free themselves from the shackles of serfdom is to set up their bosses romantically. And it works!

The catch is – and you won’t believe this – Harper and Charlie fall in love themselves while orchestrating this love match between their bosses. Who would have thought (other than every single one of you, plus your grandmas, plus the ghosts of your grandmas’ mid-century pet parakeets).

Set It Up is the original Netflix film billed as the rom-com to save all rom-coms. Were rom-coms an endangered species? The good ones seem all but extinct. And I’m not sure this one changed my mind about that. But it’s not terrible. It’s not as cornball cheesy as these things tend to be. The stars are charming and dripping with chemistry. But itMV5BYmQyM2Q0NzgtZTAxNi00OTk3LTg4NjItM2E2YmE5MGM5YWI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_ (1) doesn’t have a unique voice or anything that super sets it apart. It’s comfort food:  the kind of mac and cheese you might bring to a potluck. Not gourmet. Not lobster mac. Not truffle mac. It probably doesn’t even have gouda. But it’s warm and creamy and just gooey enough to convince you you want it. Rom-coms are predicable almost by definition. We know they’re going to get together; the “fun” is in how they get together.

Zoey Deutch is cute and glowing and perky and seemingly born to be the quirky, sweet romantic lead (her mother is Lea Thompson). Glen Powell, who previously played John Glenn and has the smug, handsome face of an astronaut, is a good match for her, although he’s the matte paint to her gloss. Tituss Burgess, in little more than a cameo, is high-impact nonetheless, and makes an excellent case for giving him a starring role, stat.  But I didn’t get a Tituss Burgess movie, I got two white actors with blindingly white smiles in roles I’ve seen dozens of times before, sometimes done better, and sometimes worse. That’s not a ringing endorsement of a movie, but ringing would be a bit over-the-top for a movie you see coming from 95 miles away. This is a tepid endorsement in 12 point, Times New Roman, which is what it deserves and all I can give.