Hey you. I wrote this Review Just for You because I like you.I also like pizza.
It feels good to live in a world where you can have two(!) mediocre, generic musical biopics open within months of one another. Bohemian Rocketman, thanks for the kitschy soundtracks, no thanks for the clichés every 5 minutes.
It feels better to live in a world where Godzilla reigns, and we don’t have to care a whit about the human “characters” because they’re just going to be stomped on before they display something annoying like a coherent character trait.
When you’re done with all the noise from the other two films opening this weekend, isn’t it nice to know that you can settle, put your feet up at Ma’s house. Then again, if you’ve seen Ma, you know you can’t really settle, and you definitely can’t put your feet up. You’ve been warned.
Ma is one of those movies where most of the important plot points were revealed in the trailer (See trailer above…or below, depending on where it’s formatted in the review). I guess we might be used to that. But for those of you who haven’t seen the spoiler-y trailer…
Ma opens with Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) moving into the neighborhood. Erica has a new job as a waitress at the casino (though she’s in line to be a dealer). Maggie has a new job as a high school student.
It’s a very exciting first day as Maggie helps a girl in a wheelchair get around. That’s so generous of Maggie. I wonder if that act of kindness will be important later.
Maggie has no problem making douchey new friends. They’re mostly white but there’s also one token black friend Darrell (Dante Brown). I wonder if that act of political correctness will be important later.
Maggie’s new friends (they do have names, but they’re not important because they’re poorly written characters that disappear from your memory as soon as they disappear from the screen) invite her to a local rock quarry to drink and do drugs. Typical teenager stuff.
Maggie has plans with her mom.
Maggie had plans with her mom. Mom had to cancel because she got called to extra shifts at work.
Maggie decides to hang with her new friends. But since they’re underage, they can’t legally buy alcohol. What’s a teenager to do?
Maybe ask a bunch of adults by a convenience store to buy it for them. Great idea, except they’re being rejected.
The Scooby gang make Maggie ask, because she’s the new girl.
Maggie just happens to run into Sue Anne (Octavia Spencer). She looks to have exited the local vet and is wearing scrubs. She’s also walking a one-legged dog. I wonder if that one-legged dog will be important later.
Maggie asks Sue Anne if she would buy them alcohol. Sue Anne agrees because she’s cool, not like those other squares.
Sue Anne buys it for them, gives it to the kids, and goes back to her job. Her job is being a really bad receptionist to a really profane vet (Allison Janney). While she should be working, Sue Anne calls the cops and rats out the kids at the rock quarry performing Satanic rituals and buying shares of Bitcoin. So shady, Sue Anne.
The cops, or rather, cop (played by the director Tate Taylor) kick the kids out of the quarry. Now they have nowhere to party. Life is tough.
The next day, they go to the liquor store and do the same racket. This time, Sue Anne buys the liquor and invites them to her house. They are free to use the basement to drink, smoke, and perform cesareans. She reasons teenagers are going to do those activities anyway, it might as well be in a safe environment.
Maggie and the crew begin calling her Ma.
At Ma’s house you’re free to have fun, but you must follow a few rules. Never get Ma wet. Never expose Ma to bright light. Never feed Ma after midnight.
And never ever go upstairs.
While Ma seems nice on the outside, you get hints that she just might be a monster. Or Ma-nster. Get it?
What Works With Ma
- Octavia Spencer- cast against type- doing all the heavy lifting even when the script fails her. And fail her it does, for most of the movie. She alone is responsible for the WTF moments in the latter half of the movie. Spencer deserved a better script. You deserved a better movie.
What Doesn't Work With Ma
- A lackluster first hour that hints at terror but doesn’t really deliver until the final act. Part of this is the trailer’s fault, revealing key points/ images that were spoiled more than you’d expect or hope. Scotty Landes’ script is all setup, and whatever payoff we get is much too little, way too late
- Octavia Spencer’s Help director Tate Taylor teases flashbacks that try to give insight into Ma’s character. The problem is that whatever info given is so piecemeal that all that happens is a constant interruption of the story to something that’s not much of a revelation. When the viewer finally knows everything, the viewer no longer cares. Taylor’s previous film, the excellent Girl on the Train, handles the doling out of information so much better. You’d be better off watching Girl again instead of Ma.
- The Help is a Lifetime movie that would play in the afternoon. Ma is a Lifetime movie that would play on a Saturday night, complete with an over-the-top climax that would be kind of awesome if it weren’t so ridiculous. The bottom line is you’d be better off watching Ma from the comfort of your home than actually seeing this in the theater. Or seeing it at all.
Skip this MILF (Movie I’d Like to Forget).