Life of the Party
Melissa McCarthy as Deanna; Molly Gordon as Maddie; Matt Walsh as Dan; Gillian Jacobs as Helen; Julie Bowen as Marcie; Maya Rudolph as Christine; Debby Ryan as Jennifer; Luke Benward as Jack
May 11, 2018
Deanna is a good mom. And she loves her daughter, Maddie, to pieces. Maddie’s in her senior year at Decatur University—the very college that Deanna and her husband, Dan, both attended, don’t ya’ know. It’s just a short 22 miles away from home, but still, Deanna always misses that girl like crazy.
Like crazy, I tell ya’.
As Dan and Deanna drop Maddie off at school, the fortysomething mom can’t help but gaze around the old campus and remember back some 20 years ago. She never did finish her degree because … well, you know how it can be. Young love. Marriage. A baby comes along. Choices have to be made sometimes. And for Deanna, being a mom to Maddie was much more important than a degree and a career.
Looking back, she can’t help but admit that life is good.
That is, until it isn’t.
Unbeknownst to Deanna, today is one of those days when life ain’t gonna be so great. Right after dropping Maddie off at school, Dan announces he wants a divorce. He’s fallen in love with another woman, a real estate agent named Marcie. Oh, and he’s already put the house up for sale. It’s all in his name, after all, and Marcie has started drawing up the papers.
How could he …? When did …? Who? What!?
Deanna is gobsmacked. She didn’t see this coming in the least. In fact, she finds herself completely nonplussed as Dan announces that he and Marcie are heading off on the exotic vacation to Italy that he and Deanna were supposed to take.
After a day or two, it all sinks in. It’s not that every aspect of this experience is terrible. I mean, once Deanna starts feeling again, she suddenly realizes that she’s not as distraught about Dan’s exit as she thought she would be. But … what now?
Deanna’s left to tell Maddie the news, of course. What a terrible responsibility that is. While contemplating the pain of that task, mixed with the pain of suddenly being on her own and the pain of still missing her beloved daughter, though, something hits Deanna like a lightning bolt: What if … she went back to school?
She could go back to Decatur U., finish her degree and be able to see Maddie more often. It would be like embracing a new beginning. Hey, she’d be embracing freedom! Sure, Maddie will have to adjust to the idea, but she’ll get there, right?
I mean, it’s not as if Deanna is going to do anything stupid or embarrassing or reckless, right? After all, she’s a good mom.
Deanna isn’t always a smart mom, but she certainly is a loving one. She repeatedly voices her deep affection for her daughter and shows similar care and concern for Maddie’s sorority sisters. One of the young women, for instance, laments that she doesn’t feel prepared for the world outside of college. Deanna tells her about some of the bad choices she’s made in life and encourages her to continue working to make the best of her situation.
In fact, Deanna’s gentle spirit and positive attitude quickly win the other sorority members over, too. They want to be around her, dubbing her Dee Rock. Eventually, Deanna’s sincerity even impacts some college’s “mean girls,” who had initially bad-mouthed her. And all of them work to help Deanna when her financial support falls through.
When Maddie eventually confronts her mom about some of the poor choices she’s made since returning to college, Deanna is wise and humble enough to admit her mistakes and to ask for forgiveness.
Deanna’s roommate is a Goth who spends a lot of time in their shared bedroom … in the dark. She has a skull on her dresser and what looks to be a pentagram-like symbol on one wall.
While drunk, Deanna casually hooks up with a young frat guy named Jack. Her daughter catches her walking out of his dorm room the next morning, and they have an uncomfortable discussion about Deanna’s sexual activities the night before. Though Deanna seems to understand the negatives involved with having sex with this young guy, she and Jack nevertheless continue their physical relationship. We see him hanging shirtless out of his room after one such “sleepover,” and it’s implied that another impassioned tryst—this time in public between the “stacks” at the school library—involved oral sex.
It should also be noted that the film itself tends to praise Deanna’s “sexually liberated” choices. Maddie and the other college girls take the news of her carefree sex life in stride. And Deanna’s bestie, Christine, actually celebrates her friend’s erotic escapades. Those choices “inspire” her to the point that she starts prompting her husband to have sex with her in public places.
Several sorority members talk about their breasts and Deanna’s “mom boobs.” During Deanna and Dan’s divorce deliberations, discussions include snidely suggestive comments about Dan’s (and another man’s) anatomy “downstairs.” A drunken guy wanders around shirtless. And it’s implied that another frat member is walking around exposing himself with his robe open.
Women often wear formfitting outfits and tank tops, with bras sometimes visible beneath. Deanna squeezes one young woman’s backside and comments about its fleshy firmness.
Deanna frequently finds herself entangled in predictably pounding pratfalls. In one of the bigger thumps, she drags all of Dan’s possessions out into the backyard, soaks them in lighter fluid and sets them on fire. But the subsequent explosion throws her across the yard. She’s also punched during a fight, painfully paddled during a sorority initiation and tumbles to the ground several times.
Elsewhere, two young women go at each other in a “cat fight” melee that has them slamming each other’s heads into doors, windows and other hard surfaces. They claw at each other, wrestle around and throw punches as well.
Deanna’s father shoots a gun he’s waving around—barely missing a pet dog. Christine gets walloped in the crotch by a racquetball, and she crumples in pain. One of the sorority members is nicknamed “Coma Girl” since she was in a coma for eight years after a skydiving accident. A young woman head-butts a guy and knocks him to the ground. A man has an earring ripped out of his ear.
Crude or Profane Language
A couple of s-words are joined by two uses of “h—” and five or six uses each of “a–” and “b–ch.” God’s name is misused nearly 20 times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Teens, twentysomethings and older adults regularly drink beer, wine, champagne and shots of tequila at frat parties and dinners, sometimes getting visibly drunk in the process. In fact, Deanna, Maddie and a couple other sorority girls go out to several frat parties and imbibe with abandon—with the young women insisting that Deanna needs to get hammered. At one such soiree, Deanna and several girls accidentally eat handfuls of chocolate-covered “weed bark.” They get so stoned that they all begin hallucinating and subsequently end up trashing a wedding reception.
Deanna and Christine guzzle booze while playing racquetball. When Maddie pulls Deanna into a bathroom, Deanna worries aloud, “Please tell me you’re not doing the cocaine.”
Other Negative Elements
Some college mean girls bully Deanna and others. In turn, one of Maddie’s sorority sisters cuts off a large lock of one bully’s hair. We hear a story that involves the subject of urination.
The simple fact is, Melissa McCarthy understands—either by instinct or practice—how physical comedy works. She knows exactly how to time a punchline and tumble into a perfect pratfall. She can also expertly fumble and bumble out a likeable character who’s awkwardly insecure and enthusiastically feisty in equal measure.
This time around, McCarthy weaves all that comedic pizazz into an endearing mom named Deanna, someone you can’t help but root for right out of the gate. And she’s surrounded by an assemblage of amiable actresses who reflect back similarly quirky and appealing character traits.
So this film ought to be a home run, especially in light of the reach-for-your-dreams encouragement and family-focused mom-daughter bonding that’s stirred into its wackadoodle mix. And in some ways, it is that kind of outta-the-park cinematic homer. Life of the Party is a sweet, smile-worthy pic … about 70% of the time. The rest, though, can feel kinda nasty.
Scripted by McCarthy and her director husband, Ben Falcone, the film opts for an unfortunate governing worldview. It declares that Deanna can only get her true comeuppance on a cheating dirtbag of a husband if she makes just as many randy, misguided choices as he does.
Deanna quickly tumbles into bed (and public sex acts) with a college hunk who could be her son, for instance. And she repeatedly gets drunk and stoned at frat parties, too. These reckless choices fly in the face of the grounded adult she’s supposed to be. And that’s especially troubling since her daughter is, most of the time, standing right there watching her make each foolish choice.
Sure, those kind of sew-your-wild-oats, moms-can-be-raunchy-too antics make for several walk-of-shame script giggles. But they also negatively impact the fun here, taking something sweet and turning it slightly sour. And that will surely sour scores of potential family viewers on this pic.