Quick Hit: Dubious character decisions and clichés tank this film on its own.
I remember watching the marketing for MA, and being slightly confused as to what type of film was coming. It seemed like it could just be a weird thriller type, or maybe it was deeper and hid racial themes within the context of a horror film, similar to Get Out. But in this case, I didn’t find it particularly one I was ready to seek out, despite the fact that I have always enjoyed the performances of Octavia Spencer. However, it ended up on our watch list anyway, and so one dark evening I threw on the DVD I rented from the library and sat back.
Unfortunately in this case, my film sense had succeeded. Outside of another great performance from Spencer, MA really wasn’t anything special.
In a tale as old as time, a mother and her daughter move back home from the big city. It’s a small Midwestern town, and it’s one where so few people have left. Because of that, there’s a lot of history there, for people that are willing to hold onto grudges for much longer than you’d ever think possible. On one hand, as someone that grew up in the suburbs and has lived here without leaving into adulthood, this resonated a little bit – it’s a bit strange to run into people that you went to school with over a decade ago, and to have them basically remember you for the person you were rather than see you for the person you are. But on the other hand, the list of clichés of small-town-living that are present throughout the film get a little much. It goes all the way down to saying drinking in a rock quarry is boring. I would have to say that I disagree with said statement.
However, in doing so, our main character finds her way into a new group of friends, and eventually they want to buy booze by “Hey Mistering”. Octavia Spencer’s character comes into the picture and buys it for them, and offers her house as a safe place to have fun. At first, it all seems too good to be true, and everyone is suspicious. But after their initial trepidation, the teens go for it. And before long, they’re inviting their friends. Ma’s place becomes the hangout spot. But it all starts to go south when Ma starts to text, and call, and post trying to get the teens’ attention. Before long, she seems totally obsessed and threatens the teens if they don’t come spend time with Ma.
Now, this all sounds like some great campy midnight madness. And it really might have been. But, there’s also a whole other movie going on in the wings of this film.
Octavia Spencer is a black woman that was raised in a primarily white town. She was picked on for a variety of reasons, but the sinister undertone for it goes beyond the nerdiness she exhibits and into a racial reason. She grows into a woman and is sad, lonely, and a bit depressed at the fact she never made it out of the town. Her bosses treat her as an object rather than an asset. She seems to have no friends, until she encounters some young teens from the town and an idea begins to percolate inside her own head.
That is a totally different film, and they’re mixed up together here. It makes it all seem messy, and Spencer manages to sell herself in both spots, but she feels more comfortable in the second film. It’s a much meatier role after all, and her performance is well nuanced and able to get across more than the script gives her.
All in all, MA does have a pretty good finish to the film. It’s last 20 minutes veer totally into the camp, and it’s full of reveals that, though telegraphed heavily throughout the film, are still fun and pay off. I probably won’t be purchasing or watching this one again, but I’ll give it a “C-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"