Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Single Moms Club [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars)  RE.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (D+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
TheSource (K. Lee) review
ChicagoTribune (R. Bentley) review
RE.com (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

BET coverage
Ebony coverage
Essence coverage
TheSource coverage

I want to give writer/director/actor Tyler Perry a hug.  Since beginning my blog, I have not only enjoyed but found positive value (often overwhelming positive value) in every film of his that I've reviewed here.   The current film, The Single Moms Club [2014] (written and directed by Tyler Perry) is IMHO signature Perry material.

Yes, the film is somewhat formulaic -- five single mothers from very diverse backgrounds are brought together to work on a project for their kids' school -- but if it is so, that's more a reflection of the distance that we still have to go as a society in coming to respect one another regardless of our background, than the fault of the writer/director's here.  Perry is showing us what would be possible, if we would _let go_ of a social pecking order that requires us to look down on others for reasons of race, class, luck ... so that we could "feel better" about ourselves.  And Perry ALSO shows us HOW DESPERATE AND LONELY WE ARE when we _choose_ to live our lives on such a slope, with people below us (and people above us...) with us trying "to keep our balance" or even "with our fingers clawing into the slope" in dire fear that we might be slipping down.

Indeed, at least 4 out of 5 women in this story appear terrified at the beginning of the story of _falling_ to a lower social class.

The film with Hillary (played by Amy Smart) a bewildered lawyer's ex, not yet realizing that her vindictive former husband is going to make her (and their daughter ...) pay for her having the audacity to challenge him (on what? we're really never told).  A year before she was "a lawyer's wife" living with a big house and with a maid ... Now she's going to be an lawyer's ex-wife living as small an alimony check as the law would allow.

Her long time (since at least college days)  friend Jan (played by Wendi McLendon) has long seen men as the enemy.  So she has purposefully sought to structure her life to be as "man free" as possible, to the point that she had a child (a girl ...) through artificial insemination some twelve years ago.  But it's not a man free world, and without a husband or at least a father of her child, she ironically finds herself at even a bigger disadvantage career-wise (in which she's really put all her aspirations) than if she had at least a lout of an ex.  At the beginning of the film, after 17 years at a publishing firm, she's FINALLY "up for partner" BUT her 12 year old (approaching her teenage years...) "has decided" to start acting-up ... IF THERE WAS A SECOND PARENT TO SHARE THIS "RITE OF PASSAGE" / BURDEN WITH, IT'D BE EASIER ... BUT THERE ISN'T ONE ...

Jan's desire to be "a success" DESPITE MEN, causes her to be brutally harsh to writers coming to the publishing firm in hopes of getting their manuscripts published, writers like African American single mom May (played by Nia Long) who works for "a local community paper" but like so many other such writers, despite responsibilities at work and at home (her ex, we find later, has a drug problem and together with him they have a 12 year-old boy) she dreams of perhaps "one day getting a book published."  But May's dream continues to depend today, at least in part, _on the mood_ of publishing AGENTS like Jan.  And interestingly IT'S THE AGENTS LIKE JAN (male or female) who in a "dog eat dog (publishing) world" CAN'T FAIL.  Jan _looks at May_ (and perhaps at her work...) and decides "this is too much of a risk (for ME)."

So Jan sends May off from her office packing, and BOTH have "appointments at school" (with regard to something that their kids have done) ... and to BOTH'S surprise ... THEY HAVE APPOINTMENTS AT THE SAME SCHOOL, AT THE SAME TIME (along with the other three (single) moms) over "bad behavior" that their kids have become involved with ... Two of the kids were caught "tagging" (spray painting with graffiti) a wall outside of school while three others were caught smoking.

The Principal tells the five assembled mothers: "Our policy is when the kids get in trouble, we try to get the parents involved.  There's a school dance coming up in 6 weeks ... Guess who we've decided is going to be the Committee to set-up the dance?"

"But we don't know each other?"  "Good.  You'll get to know each other now."

And thus we have the set-up of what becomes "The Single Moms Club" of the movie.

Now who are the other two moms?

Well there's Esperanza (played by Zulay Henau) whose husband, a upper-scale car salesman, left her "for a younger model."  To be sure, Esperanza, has found a new boyfriend too, BUT he's bartender in a restaurant (owned by his parents) a decent enough place (kind of "chain Mexican restaurant") but IT WOULD BE A STEP-DOWN economically from being _at least_ the ex-wife of a BMW salesman.

Finally, there's Lytia (played by Cocoa Brown) who has five kids.  The oldest two (as well as their father) are in jail.  The youngest two are in day-care and the middle one, 12-year-old Hakim (played by DeVion Harris) is in the (private) school with the others and Lytia is working as a waitress so that with whatever scholarships she can get for her son, her son can stay in that school.  And yes, there are neighbors who laugh at her, including the one who Lytia pays day-care to to take care of her two daughters: "You make less as a waitress than you could make being on welfare.  Why the heck do you do it?  Do you think you're better than us?"  (No ... she's doing this because she doesn't want her youngest son to end up in jail like his father and two older brothers ...)

So there, those are the five single moms of the story.  Yes, they are "from different backgrounds."  But thanks to being forced to work together by that Principal, as they start talking they realize that they have a lot in common.  Above all, THEY'RE ALL TERRIFIED ... THEY ALL FEEL that they are NOT "in control" of their lives.  And until they come together, they honestly don't know what would happen to them IF ... (fill in the blank...).

And interestingly enough, it's not like they hate men (not even Jan completely hates them ...).  BUT THEY ARE SCARED ... And part of the rest of the film is about getting them "less scared."

What helps them to become "less scared" is the _community_ that begins to form among them, and then A POSITIVE (WORTHWHILE) MAN coming among them.  Tyler Perry writes himself that role.  And it's not that his T.K. is rich (he's not).  But he has an honest job (he has "a lighting business" for stage productions) and he's _willing to wait_ for his interest (May) to "come to feel safe" around him.

Honestly, my hat off to the guy.  There would be / is some criticism (see above) that these women would "need men" at all.  But we _share_ this planet with each other.  So unless there is good reason to keep distance from someone (and not really knowing a person is a good reason ... for a while) the default position ought to be to _eventually_ let THE OTHER "in" (again, within reason / appropriately).

And this is because THE ALTERNATIVE would be to REMAIN FOREVER AFRAID and ALONE.  And honestly, I think Tyler Perry's often fundamentally religious message would be: God did not make us that way.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

No comments:

Post a Comment