Hey, moms. What if you could ditch everything—your work commitments, financial worries, societal obligations, marital discord, discipline woes—and just “treat yo self”? Think boozy brunches, spa days, watching movies in the middle of the afternoon, bar hopping, throwing a party, and drinking cheap wine on a Tuesday night.
Sounds pretty thrilling, right? Also completely, indisputably impossible?
That’s why “Bad Moms” is a comedic fantasy. The moms who go see it may find a fun break from the humdrum day-to-day worries that plague them—but they won’t find any real solutions to the frustrations they deal with.
Stir Together a Bunch of Stereotypes
Mila Kunis stars as work-worn mom Amy, with two demanding kids and a lazy, inattentive husband. They live in an upper-middle-class suburban home with pristine hardwood floors, a gorgeous vintage car, and lots of kale salads in the fridge. But not all things are perfect in Amy’s life: she’s rushing from a demanding job to PTA meetings, from vet appointments to soccer practice, and trying to make delicious meals and finish her son’s science projects for him while she’s at it.
Amy, like many moms out there, is trying to do all the things: serving as the glue that holds her family together while also functioning as the engine that keeps everything running. She’s feeling a bit frazzled.
But from this relatable premise, everything blows up into hyperbole. Amy’s coffee company is a caricature of millennial laziness and stupidity; her husband is a cartoonish stereotype of the idiotic, inattentive husband. Her friends—a risqué single mom with a penchant for trouble and a wide-eyed and innocent stay-at-home-mom—are also largely one-dimensional.
The “mommy wars” at their kids’ school are embellished accounts of dietary controversy (how do you throw a bake sale without gluten, eggs, sugar, or salt?) and overscheduling horror, but the film touches on little else that might plague grade-school moms. It makes fun of the “perfect” masks we often wear out in society, but glazes over other issues of helicopter parenting and methodological controversy that fill our day-to-day lives.
The Mommy Wars Have a Lot More to Offer
This felt somewhat like a disappointment for me, because there’s a lot of room for hilarity and sarcasm in the “mommy wars.” As the mother of a baby, I’ve seen firsthand the controversy that builds around our kids, from the first month of pregnancy until their graduation from high school (and beyond). Birth plans, breastfeeding, food and medicinal choices, child care versus staying at home, schooling decisions: the list goes on. Many of us get frustrated with the judgment and disdain we sense from moms who choose a path different from our own. Like Amy, we want to stand up for ourselves and protest.
Perhaps there’s a time and place—eventually—for a movie that lightly makes fun of these debates, and gives us a poignant vision for the reconciliation that could happen if we were to set some of these battles behind us.
Such a film would also have to address the important question of “Where are the dads?” with both greater grace and sobriety than “Bad Moms” does. The fathers in this film are horrible, despicable even, in a way that even the mean moms are not. They’re either oafish and irksome, or bullying and aloof. The quiet, insinuated conclusion of the film is less that we should stop the mommy wars and more about the need for womanly solidarity against the tyrannical or moronic behavior of dads who don’t care, or at least don’t help.
Yet if that is the film’s conclusion, it is a quiet and latent one. On the outside, “Bad Moms” is entirely free of serious motive or meaning. It’s more interested in giving moms a break from it all: weaving a fantastical narrative of rebellion and youthful abandon, replete with dirty jokes and expletives (lots of them). We can sip our Coke, eat our popcorn, and lose ourselves temporarily in the careless glee of the film’s protagonists. What would it be like to break all the “mom rules”? We may never know—but at least Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell give us scope for the imagination.