Life of the Party (2018)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5.  USA, 2018.  New Line Cinema, On the Day, Warner Bros..  Screenplay by Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy.  Cinematography by Julio Macat.  Produced by Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy.  Music by Fil Eisler.  Production Design by Rusty Smith.  Costume Design by Suzy Freeman.  Film Editing by Brian Scott Olds.

Melissa McCarthy and her husband Matt Walsh drop their daughter Molly Gordon off for her senior year of college and then, without even getting the car back on the road, hubby drops a bomb:  he is in love with a bony realtor (Julie Bowen) and he wants a divorce.  McCarthy is devastated, taking solace at the house of her parents (Stephen Root, Jacki Weaver) before deciding that the best way to cope with this sudden change in her life is to revive a dream long forgotten:  she gave up college when she got pregnant and was only a year away from completing her archaeology degree, so why not go back and finish?  Moving into a dormitory just down the way from her daughter’s sorority, she shows up in her festive sweaters and upbeat mom cheer and, because this is a movie determined to get away from stereotypes of mean girls in college movies, her fellow students mostly love her.  Gordon has issues with suddenly having to deal with her mom joining her friends at keggers and making out with boys who are less than half her age, while McCarthy is succeeding in classes and becoming a confidante to a group of young women who are terrified of the next step in their lives.  Her goals shift quite often in this messy movie made from an excessively messy screenplay, and it’s never certain if what McCarthy’s character has to process and achieve is her being the odd one out at school, reclaiming her romantic life following being dumped, or, as is pulled out in the final act, figuring out a way to pay her tuition (and I don’t want to give away too much, but an awkwardly placed Xtina X Machina pops up as a pale rehash of a similar scene in Bridesmaids).   McCarthy’s superb charm doesn’t fail her here, she’s as deliciously fun as you ever want her to be and elicits plenty of good laughs, but Ben Falcone’s sloppy direction really make this one hard to put together.  She’s supposedly doing great in school but we hardly see her doing any learning or working (Legally Blonde looks like The Paper Chase by comparison), and it doesn’t make sense that she has a fear of public presentation when she spends most of the movie chipper and friendly because she isn’t in the least bit self-aware or self-conscious.  Walsh’s farcical husband character is the impetus for a lot of sincere soul searching (there are too many emotional closeups for a comedy) before our heroine ventures onto a college campus and assembles an erratic collection of caricatures played by actors who are never sure of the tenor they’re supposed to be performing in; Gillian Jacobs and Maya Rudolph manage not to embarrass themselves but look the most confused of them all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s