Note: contains spoilers
The huge success of female-led films such as Bridesmaids heralded an influx of female-centred comedy films, with audiences finally recognising that women can, and should be awarded the space to deliver lead comedic performances. Some, like Girls Night, has been well-received and rightly praised for its progressive nature, while others, such as Bachelorette while interesting in premise, have been poorly executed.
Bad Moms while not particularly inventive in terms of narrative, is, through its presentation and narrative focus, rather pleasingly enlightened. Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn as mothers with varying levels of pressure, and responsibility, the film accurately demonstrates the need for a new representation of the matriarchal role. Here each woman is entirely devoted to her children, but are afforded their own personalities and agency.
Kunis, discovering that her husband has been cheating on her, rather than allowing the revelation to devastate her and force some clichéd reinvention, simply moves on. She continues to manage her successful career and embarks on a new emotionally, and sexually satisfying relationship while remaining on amicable terms with her ex-husband. She is not punished for attempting to balance a career with being a mother, and is instead, rewarded for her ability and tenacity.
Similarly, Bell’s character, a stay-at-home mother is afforded her own agency, but instead of leaving her previously possessive and controlling husband, the pair work on the gender dynamics present, in turn creating a marriage that allows a greater level of equality.
These elements in themselves are not particularly revolutionary, but it both their inclusion and presentation in Bad Moms that is so worthy of praise. Kunis’ character never questions her ability to work, and while she may question her aptitude to successfully mother her children, this is never truly called in to question. Her children are well-adjusted, and their relationship both with each other, and Kunis’ character is positive. The relationship between the women too, is largely positive. While the central conceit of the film centres around the rivalry between Kunis and Christina Applegate’s overachieving president of the PTA mother archetype, it intentionally and purposefully humanises her character. The film’s final scene features Applegate inviting her previous rivals to spend the day with her, without grudge or anger.