Bad Moms (2016)
The shaming of women is a global phenomenon that unfortunately is part of everyday life. Filmmakers, media and marketing industries prey on women’s anxieties about their bodies, and motherhood is another favourite target. While the documentary Embrace (2016) calls out body shaming, the comedy Bad Moms (2016) calls out the impossible standards to which modern mothers are expected to conform. Laughter carries this message more effectively than polemic but make no mistake: while this film is funny it also has serious things to say.
The plotline is all too familiar. Over-worked mom Amy (Mila Kunis) is always running between the needs of her spoilt two children, a lazy husband, a part-time job, homework, school rules, and endless extra-curricular activities. The kids are overscheduled, over-controlled and over-indulged, and like too many parents everywhere, the homework is for Amy. When she ditches the husband for having a cyber-sex affair her already chaotic world nears breaking point. That’s when the pushy cabal of PTA perfect moms and yummy mummies insist on ever-more elaborate cake-bakes. When she publicly quits the PTA, the snobby dominatrix president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) launches a vendetta against Amy and her kids. She retaliates by campaigning for president and the internecine warfare between mom camps escalate in hilarious ways. Deserted by the school, her nearest friends become her emotional anchors and all give themselves permission to party and carry on. While the story is predictable and at times corny, the underlying issues are totally real. The slapstick comedy softens the pointed message about just how powerless mothers are against the onslaught of unrealistic expectations. The bigger irony is that so many movies perpetuate the myth of the perfect mom without even questioning the existence of the perfect dad.
This film is obviously targeted directly at stressed-out moms but dads should watch too. If nothing else, it exposes the gender inequality that persists in parenting and the bigger injustice of ‘perfect moms’ shaming other moms for not meeting politically correct standards. When Amy gives her election speech and confesses all the ways she is a bad mom she starts a sisterhood chorus of bad moms all needing to offload their guilt about the things they have not done for their children. While it’s always possible to find aspects of a film that could have been made better, this film deserves praise for going in to bat for the most honourable profession on the planet.
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Stars: Mila Kunis, Kathyrn Hahn, Kristen Bell