n true American style, this film starts with a glossy, peaches and cream idealised view of university. It’s a classic sorority tale and begins with two loving parents dropping off their child for the last time. By the time I got to my third year, I practically had to beg my parents to drop me off (I actually over dramatised a running injury and also stole everything in the cupboard in the process. Reluctantly, they caved.)
Melissa McCarthy plays Deanna. It’s a classic McCarthy silhouette. She’s nerdy, zany and over-exaggerated. Her costume screams “mom”. But she’s surprisingly grounded for a McCarthy star vehicle production. She’s also compassionate, loving and a sincere mother who shares a friendship with her daughter. It’s not quite at a “do people really act like that” Lorelai and Rory relationship but its honest and maybe the most realistic and genuine element in the film.
After 40 seconds of being back in the car to drive home, her husband calls it quits and confesses to having an affair with a local estate agent (played excellently by Modern Family’s Julie Bowen). With her life really turned upside down, she decides to go back to university (ironically where her daughter is currently enrolled) and finish her Archelogy degree.
Surprisingly, there’s not as much tension between the pair as you would think. There’s no, “You’re ruining my senior year!” yelling match on the quad for everyone to see. There’s just a slight eye roll sprinkled with a touch of 'my mum’s really embarrassing'. It’s refreshing to see a mother daughter duo that actually can tolerate each other. Daughter Maddie is pretty quick to realise her mum is actually pretty cool and lets her mum just do her own thing.
After a quick makeover in the bathroom of a party, Deanna begins to shed her mum image and enters a second adolescent phase. She starts to become liberated by her situation and really is the life of the party. She has a relaxed outlook and is not afraid to make a fool of herself, a lesson I think every young person could learn from. She begins a 'friends with benefits' situation with a frat boy and destroys her ex’s wedding.
When Deanna can no longer afford tuition, Maddie and the girls of the Sorority pull an Elle Woods and all come together to help their new friend. When their party doesn’t encourage enough turnout, they tweet a tiny white lie that Christina Aguilera will perform. Word gets out and the students are fuming. In true comedy troupe style, Deanna’s strange roommate is a cousin of Aguilera (wow, what are the chances) and she flies in like a superhero and saves the party. This was a choice that perplexed me. Granted Aguilera is a legend and conveniently is finally releasing new music this year, but it just felt like an odd casting. Why not go for an artist like Camilla Cabello that a millennial audience is more likely to listen to and that your mum will also know from “Havana” constantly being on the radio.
This film has genuine belly laugh moments that you would expect from a McCarthy and Falcone flick, but also moments of absurdity that don’t meet the mark. Her sweating presentation scene felt like a vanity scene to remind us of the usual McCarthy physical comedy we are familiar with. Overall the film felt glossy with surface level supporting characters that don’t go anywhere. The scenes with bully Jennifer felt so unnecessary it was embarrassing to witness. It’s an uplifting film that is perfect to take your mum to and falls perfectly into the cannon of McCarthy’s strange and zany dress up box.