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Bad Moms

Year: 2016
Production Co: STX Entertainment
Director: Jon Lucas/Scott Moore
Writer: Jon Lucas/Scott Moore
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo, Oona Laurence, Clark Duke, Jay Hernandez

Far less interesting than the movie (which plays out like you expect for a studio comedy) is the gender-political intent of its existence. Nowhere in art and culture do we adhere more to the dichotomy of woman as either the Madonna or the whore than American movies.

Every female character, no matter how nuanced or individual on the surface, is either virtuous and loyal and ready to sacrifice everything about her individuality to her home and family, or disposable eye candy designed to elicit no more than high fives among the bros who get to – or want to – bang her.

Bad Moms is the rarest of movies that wants both – women who are devoted to their families and kids but have their own desires and intact senses of self. The senses of self are what they've forgotten exist amongst the endless responsibilities and shortness of time, and the premise of the film is about them re-discovering those identities and actualising them, but it does it using very Hollywood comedy-approved tropes and antics.

A better expression of it was actually found in the dull-as-dishwater Meryl Streep movie Ricki and the Flash, in a single scene where the heroine muses about how it's almost expected when men leave their families to find themselves but if a woman does the same she's evil incarnate.

Unfortunately it dropped that very interesting thread just as quickly, and this film tells the same story with even less socio-political controversy, the scenes transposed directly from a hundred comedies about men doing the same thing.

There's a final speech where hero Amy (Mila Kunis) entreats her contemporaries to accept and love their flaws and accept that they can't be everything no matter how much society expects them to be, but that's as politically engaged as it gets.

But to be fair, it is only a comedy, so you can't expect anything too dogmatic. Bad Moms is much more interested in zeitgeisty tropes like feeling inadequate in the face of the withering queen bee of the school community (Christina Applegate) and barely holding the pressures of family and kids together, things falling hilariously apart in various scenes of gags and slapstick.

The whole film is a series of vignettes designed to convince Amy and her new friends, straight laced Kiki (Kristen Bell) and brassy Carla (Kathryn Hahn) that they don't have to be perfect – scenes that will see them drink, misbehave, party and peel back the formica to reveal the hidden disillusionment of everyone around them.

There are plenty of laughs along the way and neither the actors nor the direction really put a foot wrong, but it's kind of disappointing seeing Kathryn Hahn take a fat paycheck to play the 'mouthy, slutty friend' archetype after she's played such great roles in indie films.

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