TL;DR – A fun uplifting comedy that I found myself smiling all the way through.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no Post-Credit Scene
To be perfectly honest I was not actually planning to go see Life of the Party, because of a couple of reasons. It came out during a particularly big work week for me, and also from the trailers, it looked like many, many other comedies I have sat through over the last couple of years. But I had some free time today and it was on so I thought what the hell, and I am actually really glad that I did.
So to set the scene, Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) is a happily married mother, that, along with her husband Dan (Matt Walsh), is dropping their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off to start her last year at college. All is going well until Dan drops a bombshell that he wants a divorce, he’s been seeing a relater called Marcie (Julie Bowen), he’s selling the house because it is in his name, and like he just wants a clean break, what an arse. This catches Deanna completely off guard because they were just about to go on a long needed holiday to Italy. So after consoling with her parents Sandy (Jacki Weaver) and Mike (Stephen Root), and her best friend Christine (Maya Rudolph), Deanna decides to go back to college and finish her final year of study that she dropped out of because Dan thought it was more important for him to finish. So mother and daughter are both attending their last year in college together, and the inevitable hijinks ensue.
There has been a growing trend in Hollywood in recent years after the success of Hangover and Bridesmaids that all comedies should be American R-rated ones. Now I am glad people are taking the risk to try something new, indeed I just wrote about how much I enjoyed Deadpool 2 (see review). But like all trends companies hop on board whether it is good for the film or not. So it is quite refreshing to see a film that knows what it wants to be and targets itself accordingly. This is a film that is focusing itself on telling a story about empowering women of all ages, and it has a real heart to its message. Because of this, it does not need to use crass humour to cover for a lack of story which I have seen in multiple films.
I think where this film works for me is in the relationships of the leading cast. Take for example Deanna and Maddie, when Deanna first mentions that she is going to college with her there is a lot of resistance, she does not want her mother there and when that is there, she does not want her hanging around her sorority with her friends. However, as time goes on she bonds more with her mother as she sees how she is a great friend to her sorority sisters, Helen (Gillian Jacobs), Amanda (Adria Arjona), and Debbie (Jessie Ennis). This film is all about exploring empowering relationships between friends and how you can draw strength from each other.
Indeed at the heart of the film is those relationships, between lifelong friends, between sorority sisters, between a mother and her daughter, and all of it is wonderfully acted by the cast. You have Helen who spent the last eight years in a coma, I really liked the almost irreverent way Gillian Jacobs plays the character, yet she is still fiercely protective of her friends. Or Jack Strong (Luke Benward) the endearing if over excited frat guy Deanna has a fling with. Or Christine the lifelong friend that is always there to support Deanna, and is in a deeply loving marriage with Frank (Damon Jones). Of course, Melissa McCarthy is in her element here, and it really shows, that and most of the cast seem to be having a great time. There is a believable rapport between the cast that grows organically as the film goes on, as their bonds would naturally grow over time. All of this ends in a scene over dinner which might be one of the funniest moments I have seen so far this year.
While I did really enjoy the film there were some elements of it that didn’t ring true to me. The first is some of the aspects of the college setting, for someone who works in the tertiary education sector, I don’t think it would be as easy as it was to finish your degree after 20 odd years. Also, there is no way a competent teacher would let an oral presentation go on that long with a student clearly in distress, and who sets an oral presentation as a hurdle assessment, that’s just bad assessment planning. Though all the blackboards having things that would be in an archaeology class was a nice touch. Also, there is a plot line of a stereotypical ‘mean girl’ Jennifer (Debby Ryan) that just felt superfluous to the story and didn’t need to be there as a point of conflict.
In the end, do we recommend Life of the Party? Yes, I would. It is a fun uplifting story about a mother reconnecting with her daughter, it hits a lot of those college tropes but in an interesting way, and Melissa McCarthy really sells this whole somewhat silly set up. Also if you are someone who does not like crass humour, but is okay with a little risqué humour well then this is the film for you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Life of the Party
Directed by – Ben Falcone
Written by – Ben Falcone & Melissa McCarthy
Music by – Fil Eisler
Cinematography by – Julio Macat
Edited by – Brian Olds
Starring – Melissa McCarthy, Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona, Jessie Ennis, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen, Matt Walsh, Debby Ryan, Jacki Weaver, Stephen Root, Luke Benward, Jimmy O. Yang, Yani Smone, Shannon Purser, Chris Parnell, Damon Jones & Heidi Gardner with Christina Aguilera
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13