Ma (2019) | Movie Review |

The Obsessive Mother-Like Figure trope in horror films has finally received a version of the character that is seasoned in Blumhouse’s 2019 psychological-thriller Ma. Directed by Tate Taylor and starring veteran actress Octavia Spencer, Ma follows a group of teenagers who befriend a lonely middle-aged woman who allows them to party in her basement, only for startling and crazy things to happen. Ma came about because Octavia Spencer was tired of not being offered a lead role and director Tate Taylor, who worked with Spencer on The Help, said he wanted to create something that was “f****d up and MAAAAN, did they DELIVER!

Kids, drugs are bad, MMMKAY!

This movie will relate to people who grew up in a small town the most. Maggie Thompson (Diana Silvers) and her mother Erica Thompson (Juliette Lewis) have moved to Erica’s hometown in Ohio after Maggie’s father cheated on her mother. Being the new girl at her high school, Maggie befriends a group of friends that just like to party and get drunk. If you’ve ever been to a gas station then you’ve more than likely experienced some random underage teen asking if you will buy cigarettes or alcohol for them. Maggie and her friends are that kid.

McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, and Diana Silvers in Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

The problem is they asked the wrong person. Kids, this is why you shouldn’t talk to strangers. They ask what turns out to be a lonely sociopathic middle-aged veterinary technician named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). At first glance Sue Ann seems normal but she is far from that. She became obsessed with Maggie and her group of friends right off the bat. She invites them to come to her house and drink in her basement. One of the teens gave her the nickname Ma and her place became the go-to spot for the kids to drink, party and cut loose. The only rule that Ma has is for the kids to keep the party in the basement and not venture upstairs, y’know, respect her house.

Octavia Spencer, Dante Brown, McKaley Miller, and Gianni Paolo in Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

Of course in this type of movie someone has to go not follow the rules and go upstairs. Maggie and Haley (McKaley Miller) have to be the ones that go and investigate but when they hear strange noises coming from another they get creeped out and don’t want to go back to Ma’s. Haley even goes far enough to tell the rest of her classmates not to go back there and they put the kibosh on future party attempts.

Diana Silvers in Ma (2019)

Yet, for some reason, the script calls for the kids to go back to Ma’s for the most absurd reasons, even after finding out that Ma was stealing from them and noticing that she was off her rocker. The great thing about this movie is that the script is B-level but the direction and acting elevates past the things that are holding it back. To the film’s defense there is a reason why these kids would make such a foolish decision.

During the film’s third act, when the horror aspect picks up, Diane Silvers shines as the Final Girl trope. Even Ma comments on her doey eyes which are perfect for expressing the fear that is racing through her mind as she’s tied up to a dog collar watching her friends being tormented.

Diana Silvers in Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

Another thing about this movie that made it enjoyable was that the parents of these teenagers cared about their child. Erica is a passive-aggressive mother for the first two acts of the film and it’s completely understandable because she and her daughter have just moved and they’re going through some things. Once Erica finds out about Ma, giving her daughter drinks and a place to party, she does some parenting and tells Maggie to stay away from Ma and confronts Ma to stay away from her daughter. Maggie being the rebellious teen that she ends up going back to Ma’s house anyway but once  Erica finds out she curses up a storm. This small scene establishes a lot because there are too manyfilms in the horror genre that make the parents complete idiots.

Juliette Lewis and Diana Silvers in Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

Don’t Let Me Drink Alone

What makes Ma stand out in comparison to the unseasoned version of the psychotic mother-like stalker thriller is Octavia Spencer’s acting and the film is not taking itself too seriously. When one of the teens gets too mouthy with Ma she pulls a gun out on them and things become tense for the character and those watching the film, yet Ma laughs this off and quips with “Do you think I’m Madea or something,” which releases the tension. Sue Ann keeps that thaaang on her.

Octavia Spencer in Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

Ma is definitely campy and there are moments that don’t make sense or are just presented too conveniently for the plot, especially when the film delivers Sue Ann’s backstory. Sue Ann never left the town the film was set in and when she was in high school the students played a cruel prank – and this prank was VERY MESSED UP – on her. Turns out the main group of teenagers that we’ve seen throughout the film are the children of the kids that picked on Sue Ann in high school. Before this is revealed in the film you can tell that things are headed this way.

Even knowing that twist was coming, it didn’t hurt the film because of the strength of Spencer’s performance. She’s everything you would want in a horror villain, creepy, mysterious, quick-witted and terrifying. She killed one character with her car and it got a laugh out of me. By knowing when to and when not to take itself seriously, Ma is a film that audiences who see movies with a group of friends would love.

IMDB/Ma

Spencer said she took the role because she was tired of not being offered lead roles in films and if the movie doesn’t offer her those opportunities then nothing will. This was her LeBron James moment and the script was the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and although horror’s rarely get Oscar nominations, I hope she gets one for this.

Having a smaller budget worked in this film’s favor too. Instead of going out of the way and trying to create something scary, the minimalist approach with the mask pictured below did the job fine, and other studios should take notes.

 

 

Ma (2019)
IMDB/Ma

Final Thoughts

One thing that should be stated about Ma and the people behind the scenes, is that 2019 has been such a marvelous year for black women in horror and Blumhouse has produced two wonderful films with strong black leads. When Octavia Spencer was pitched this role, she asked if she was going to die first and it turns out she was the last death in the film. Progress.

This film isn’t a perfect film and with a stronger script or a couple of revisions then it would get a higher rating but I was never bored and the pacing always kept me interested in what was going to happen next. In a messed up way, it was refreshing to finally see the shoe on the other foot when it comes to a stalker terrorizing their victims.

The undertones of seeing a black lady who was picked on by her peers in a predominately white town enact some type of revenge is something you do not see every day on the big screen. The film addresses race in a comedic way by having Ma paint the only other black person in the film, white:

IMDB/Ma

If you’re looking for something fresh and original then give Ma a chance while it is still playing in theaters. Remember, don’t talk to strangers and don’t let her drink alone.

Fin.

RATING

[Fresh Horchata]

[Fuego]

[Bueno]

[así así]

[Basura]

[All Mames Wey]

Ma was released in theaters on May 31, 2019

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Booksmart (2019) | Movie Review |

Sometimes high school students get so caught up in their studies and preparing for their future that they do not take the time to live in the moment and enjoy the final days of their youth. Booksmart follows two bookworms as they try to party and cut loose during their last day of classes a few days before graduation. The film is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut with leading ladies Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Spoilers after the trailer.

Familiar Story

The film’s plot has been done countless times before in other movies. Two strait-laced pretentious high school students that are the outcast of their class attempt to do something radical so they can fit in with their classmates. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends who have never done anything fun because they’ve been focusing on getting into good colleges; however, it turns out that their classmates who have been partying and having fun have also got into those same colleges.

Olivia Wilde’s direction shines early on in the film. The scene when Molly finds out that her negligent peers are going to elite schools such as Yale and Stanford, the camera does a close shot on Molly’s face while allowing the world around her to keep moving. This lets the audience capture the panic on her face and is symbolic of how Molly has always been focused without realizing the world around her has kept moving. Once Molly tells her classmates that they don’t care about school, Anabelle/Triple A (Molly Gordon) lets it be known that they don’t only care about school. A nice bit of dialogue that explains the mentality of Molly and Amy versus everyone else in the class. The scene functions as social commentary that no matter what you do – someone can put in half the amount of work you do and end up in the same spot.

IMDB/Booksmart

What makes Booksmart different from similar films such as Superbad, Ladybird, mid90s and other post-2000 coming-of-age films is its unpredictability and the dynamics of the friendship between Molly and Amy. Molly is the alpha of the two, yet Amy is the one who’s more normal and doesn’t pick fights with all of their classmates. Amy being a lesbian adds a fresh twist when things don’t work out between her and her crush Ryan (Victoria Ruesga).

Wilde’s direction shines again once Amy discovers Ryan making out with Molly’s crush Nick (Mason Gooding), which causes an argument between Molly and Amy. Visually, the pair are arguing and yelling at each other but the audience doesn’t hear what they’re saying, instead the film uses its score to its advantage by adding an extra depth of emotion.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (2019)
IMDB/Booksmart

The humor throughout the film is vulgar, raunchy and unpredictable. There is a lot going on that once you think the film is going in one direction it does a complete 180 and surprises you which is why the film feels so fresh. By the time the movie is over you want to spend more time with the characters which is always a good feeling.

A Class of Characters

Booksmart is a film filled with fun and well-written characters that make it memorable from start to finish. Since Molly and Amy act like they’re better than everyone else at their school, it’s hard to feel bad for them when all the other kids leave them out of the parties that are happening this weekend. George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) are a dysfunctional couple who host a murder-mystery party that, unpredictably, transitions into a claymation scene. The claymation scene is a result of Molly and Amy eating drugged strawberries, as the pair are tripping out George, Alan and the other party guests who are puzzled by what’s going on.

IMDB/Booksmart

The students aren’t the only ones who shine in Booksmart. The movie comments on how educators need a second a job, with Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) also moonlighting as a Lyft driver. Amy and Molly are taken by surprise when they’re picked up by their principal while using Lyft. There’s an awkward moment that involves a bluetooth speaker and pornography!

Later on while searching for the location of Nick’s party, they try to hold Pat the Pizza Guy (Mike O’Brien) as a hostage until he tells them where he delivered the pizzas. This is a hilarious scene because Amy and Molly have no idea what they’re doing and Pat patronizes them. He even pulls a gun on them before making them get out of his car.

The most awkward adult to student relationship between teacher and students is between the appropriately named Ms. Fine (Jessica Williams) and her class. Ms. Fine is the young and hip teacher that her class adores because she’s cool. She gives Amy and Molly a ride to Nick’s party and she ends up partying with her graduating students. She is a surrogate big sister to Molly and Amy after giving them advice and telling them that she used to be like them in high school and did a complete 180 while in college. Oh, and she hooks up with one of her students, Theo (Eduardo Franco), who is older than most of his classmates.

Diana Silvers in Booksmart (2019)
IMDB/Booksmart

After being heartbroken, things ended on a good note for Amy as she kissed her first girl, Hope (Diana Silvers). Hope is the cruel girl who keeps to herself but when she talks people take notice. Silvers was perfectly cast because she had the right demeanor of quiet, confident and commanding.

The actress who stole the show throughout the film was Billie Lourd and her portrayal as Gigi. Every time Gigi appeared on-screen she was random and eccentric but never annoying. Gigi is the richest girl at the school and her classmates joke that she and her boyfriend Jared (Skyler Gisondo) are the one percent.

IMDB/Booksmart

Lourd does an outstanding job with this character and what she is given. She may have 10 minutes, if that much, of screen time and she made every second count. Her character was mysterious but never felt vague and she could’ve been in it more to be honest.

Final Thoughts

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is one of the best comedies that has hit the big screen so far in 2019. Booksmart is an unpredictable, raunchy comedy that has been boosted thanks to its wide range of characters. It may not have the box office success that Annapurna Pictures would like it to have, but there are going to be a lot of actors and actresses from this film that will breakout like the stars of Superbad over a decade ago. Kaitlyn Devers and Beanie Feldstein shine in their lead roles.

Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (2019)
IMDB/Booksmart

Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd especially shine the brightest in this one. This film was written and directed by women and the actresses brought their A-game to it. If this one is currently playing near you then I’d definitely recommend giving this one a viewing. If you’re interested in getting a sense of the movie before going to the theater then I have good news! Annapurna Pictures has released the first 6 minutes of the film on their Youtube:

Fin.

RATING

[Fresh Horchata]

[Fuego]

[Bueno]

[así así]

[Basura]

[All Mames Wey]

Booksmart was released in theaters May 24, 2019.

Like. Share. Discuss: @PeliculasCosas