Stage Mother (2020)

THOM FITZGERALD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

Canada, 2020. Studio4K Productions, , . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by , , Brad Hennig, , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Jacki Weaver lives a calm and well-ordered life with her husband in their tiny Texas town, she’s the director of their church choir when she’s not making appetizers for her husband’s sport nights with his friends.  She gets a call from San Francisco that her son, from whom she has been estranged for a decade, has died, and the floodgates burst in her quieted, repressed soul.  Her son was gay and she and her husband decided that they couldn’t live with it, hiding his photos and treating him as already dead, but at the news of his actual passing Weaver knows immediately how much she regrets the decision.  Traveling to the west coast for his funeral, she meets his best friend (), who gives her a couch to sleep on, then finds out some very shocking news: her son owned a drag bar that she has now inherited, and his ex-boyfriend () is livid about it.  At first uncomfortable with the sight of men wearing lipstick, giant wigs and glitter, she decides that the way to help soothe the pain of what she missed out on with her son is to stick around and get involved, turning around the bar’s poor customer attendance by livening up the floor show.  Grenier is hesitant to buy it at first, believing she’s just looking to profit off her dead son, but eventually they find the middle of the road because, really, what else is a movie like this for?  Everything you see here you’ve seen somewhere before, in Viva the young man is still alive, in Muriel’s Wedding the jokes are funnier and in Sordid Lives the sense of whacky southern gothic is better defined, but this film is too good-natured to be damned for not outdoing its predecessors.  Weaver has a hard time convincing you that she was ever going to give us much trouble about crossing the road towards a more liberal attitude, and her relationship with her husband doesn’t feel authentic, but director Thom Fitzgerald knows exactly how to get sincerity out of the entire cast and emphasizes it enough to make you forget that even the musical numbers aren’t trying hard enough (though living up to Priscilla level is a lot to ask).  Liu in particular has never been so warm or amiable before, and Weaver telling one of her performers’ mothers not to miss out on the opportunity to get to know her son the way she no longer can really does touch somewhere deep.

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