This has to be the most absurd shit I’ve seen in a while, even counting the John Waters film I saw last week (Desperate Living). Not that this is as full of genitalia and body mutilation and gross out stuff as that movie was – though there is some – but just the choices this movie makes are so goddamned weird.
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers
SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE COMING UP.
This is an Octavia Spencer vehicle where she plays a small-town veterinarian who apparently loves hanging out with children so much that it drove her insane. I thought at some points, this could be genuinely profound, a revealing character study, maybe about small town living or what trauma does to you. But instead it just turned into a bunch of nonsense.
I guess it starts with a new girl in town character, Maggie, as she and her mom move back to some lame podunk Midwestern town. Her mom wears a skimpy outfit at a casino while Maggie makes friends with a bunch of hoodlums who do insane and groundbreaking things like hang out at gas stations and try to get adults to buy them booze. Watch out! These kids are ON THE EDGE!
They make friends with Spencer’s character Sue Anne, or ‘Ma,’ who invites them over to hang out and drink and smoke pot in her basement in the woods. Being dumb kids, I can see it. Though the part where Spencer’s character makes this one jock kid strip totally naked at gunpoint should’ve probably been more of a giveaway. But kids are so damn desensitized to everything now.
I guess there are a few decent scenes setting up the characters, and at first, Spencer’s character is legit kind of creepy as she goes through her sort of revenge game against these kids, who are the children of some assholes who wronged her in high school. Apparently once a long time ago, those kids tricked her into giving a blowjob in a janitor’s closet to some nerdy kid when she thought she was with the popular guy.
That’s the only thing they show us as to why she turned out so fucked up. I hate to sound insensitive here. But the movie just makes such a bad case about her psyche and how she turned out crazy that it’s making me look like some kind of alt right incel douche here. Like goddammit. It’s not played for sympathy so much as just this cheap thing. There’s not a point where the movie reflects on why what happened to her was bad or what effects that would actually have. It’s just “blowjob closet rape scene = you turn into a crazy horror movie stalker 30 years later.” Somehow, I don’t think the American Psychological Journal is calling you back.
Ma also has a daughter of her own, Genie, who she makes believe is sick and keeps home from school a lot. Like that closet rape scene, this is another actually serious thing that the movie barely treats as such. It's child abuse. But it’s kind of glazed over and never given
much any point in the story. But who needs that boring real life shit when we have a bunch of scenes of Octavia Spencer partying with hick teenagers???
The main character, Maggie, dates this one guy for a while, and a few kinda nice scenes happen, maybe almost approaching character development even. Though even that goes nowhere and amounts to nothing, much like the lives of the people living in the small town in the movie. Meanwhile, Spencer’s Ma character texts people a lot, too much even. OooOOOOOoooh! Scary? I dunno. I’ve had this happen in real life from weirdos I’d known online for a few months. Didn’t make me want to see a horror movie about it.
The problem with the movie going forward is that I doubt the writers remember what it was like to be a teenager. Maggie and her mom have this overblown fight about her going to Ma’s house to hang out, and it barely makes sense. Even though Maggie herself has been worried about going there for most of the movie, now she’s super mad about it and hurling insults at her mother! It’s a pretty brutal argument for this movie’s standards, and I’m pretty sure Maggie hasn’t even been this mad at the actual villains in the movie.
Maggie goes back over to Ma’s house to save her boyfriend, and they all get trapped down there as Ma predictably goes insane. Only, even the torture methods are off. Like she paints this black kid’s face white, sews a girl’s lips together and burns another kid just one time with an iron. That’s all she does to them. Then she wants a “picture” with them to replicate her own high school years, and at that point I was just like “oh, I get it now, this is really fucking stupid.”
Then, to make things even more bizarre, when Maggie has to go stab Ma in the back to save Genie, she shouts “I’m not my mother!” I guess because her mom had to move back to her hometown and take a shitty waitressing job? Was that the message this whole Godforsaken time?
This whole thing was just a mess, and the more I thought about it the worse it seemed. I liked Spencer’s acting and even the kids were good. But the story and script just made no real sense. Every “serious” plot thread was seemingly cast aside in favor of scenes of the characters drinking and partying. In fact, pretty sure that was the whole motive here, to have an excuse to drink and party and somehow get paid for it. In which case this movie is actually ingenious and I was wrong about all of this.
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