As someone with three-year-old twin boys and an exhausted saint of a wife at home, I can say without any hesitation that being a mom is the hardest job there is. Nothing even comes close. And lately, it seems to just be getting harder and harder, as self-righteous, scolding mommy blogs constantly jackhammer home the feeling that everything you do is not only wrong, but also probably criminally negligent. That your kid will be Charles Manson if you don’t follow all of the rules. Maybe it’s always been this way. But certainly not to this degree. All of the tsk–tsking has reached peak levels of judginess. On its surface, Bad Moms is just Hollywood’s latest raunchy comedy about grown-ups behaving badly, like Bad Teacher and Bad Santa. But the biggest surprise about the film is how much deeper it goes than that surface. Beneath all of its hard-R partying, rebellious debauchery, and profanity, it taps into something very real and insidious in the zeitgeist. It’s one of the funniest movies of the year—and one of the most necessary.
Mila Kunis stars as Amy Mitchell, an overworked and underappreciated 32-year-old suburban wife and mother of two tween kids. Amy seems to have it all together, but in truth, she’s stressed to the snapping point. Her husband (David Walton) is a lazy, selfish, man-child having an online affair, her tool of a boss (Clark Duke) is a demanding, unappreciative poster child of millennial entitlement, and her mommy peers are eyebrow-raising scolds who shame her parenting skills when she drops her kids off at school every day. As Amy, Kunis, who’s never had a movie as good as this, manages to be both sympathetic and funny, and she has the crack comedic timing you’d expect from someone who grew up working on a sitcom. As does her tightly-wound June Cleaver nemesis, Christina Applegate’s Gwendolyn—the terrifyingly put-together PTA alpha-dog whose kids are named Blair and Gandhi and who swears to take Amy down after she stops playing by the rules, gives up trying to be the perfect parent, and defiantly becomes a “Bad Mom”.
Pushed to the limit, Amy basically decides to stop taking crap and put herself first for once. She kicks her husband out of the house and races around in his vintage muscle car like Evel Knievel on a bender. She gets totally wasted with her new Bad Mom-besties: the meek and mousey Kiki (Kristen Bell) and the horny, foul-mouthed Id tornado Carla (Kathryn Hahn). And she declares war on Applegate’s Gwendolyn and her condescending sidekicks (Jada Pinkett-Smith and Annie Mumulo). Granted, that liberatingly feminist comedy set-up goes back at least as far as 9 to 5—if not farther. And Bad Moms certainly doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but it’s nice to see the tires on that wheel get a little dirtier. Hahn, who unleashes outrageous arias of four-letter poetry every time she opens her mouth, is a revelation. If everyone else wasn’t so good, I’d say she steals the movie in the same way that Melissa McCarthy walked away with Bridesmaids five years ago.
With as much insight as Bad Moms has, it’s hard to believe that the film was written and directed by two men, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore—the same guys who co-wrote that ode to arrested male development, The Hangover, no less. But Bad Moms has the sting of truth about the relentless demands mothers (and yes, even fathers) face today. It’s also incredibly funny in a way that that a similarly-themed show like Bravo’s Odd Mom Out wants to be, but isn’t. That show is so caught up in its aspirational Upper East Side milieu of one-percent privilege, there’s nothing to really relate to. Bad Moms is for all the other mothers out there. The ones who’d like to bring store-bought doughnut holes to the school bake sale without being judged by Gwyneth. The ones who can’t afford housekeepers or nannies. The ones who know that the promise that ‘You can have it all’ is a lie. The ones who put up with more than they should have to all day-every day, and desperately need a night out with someone like Kathryn Hahn just to feel human again. A–