Amy is like most of us: overworked and underpaid. Only she works 24/7 and is paid … well, nothing.
OK, so she picks up a check working part-time for a hip Chicago coffee shop—a three-day workweek that typically accordions to five (plus maybe a day or two more, if her boss can wring it out of her). But that’s just moonlighting. Her most important job title is “Mom,” a gig with some admitted perks, but a whole lotta overtime.
Amy cooks. Chauffers. Does homework. Whips together science projects. Her demanding employers (two middle schoolers and a husband who might as well be) are stingy with praise. She works constantly but is always behind. She cries every day. Promotions? Vacations? Forget it. Prisoners in a Soviet gulag would have it easier.
And it’s not like she can quit the gig and look for more understanding children elsewhere. No, when she took the job, she took it for life. And she, like most moms, is determined to do her best.
Or, at least, she was.
Her career satisfaction takes a dip when she catches her hubby in a compromising position with a woman online. She’s been forced to take on a venti’s worth of new duties at her 60-hour-a-week part-time job. She spills hot coffee on herself. Her leftover spaghetti lunch—which she eats in the minivan—leaps from its Tupperware container and attacks her. She accidentally sideswipes a car, taking off a mirror and prompting her daughter, Jane, to ask if she just committed a hit-and-run.
And then, then, Amy arrives a little late to an emergency three-hour meeting of the local PTA, led by a domestic diva named Gwendolyn. The emergency: the latest bake sale. Moms are welcome to bake anything they’d like, Gwendolyn says—as long as they don’t include flour, salt, milk or sugar. And to ensure that these dietary guidelines are strictly enforced, Gwendolyn’s forming a squad of bake-sale hitmen (hitwomen?) tasked with shaming any violators and stamping their illicit baked goods into tiny, gluten-laden crumbs.
Who does Gwendolyn choose as her first “volunteer”? Amy, of course. “That’s what happens when you’re late, sweetie,” Gwendolyn coos.
You can almost—almost—hear a crack come from deep inside Amy, like the sound of a pencil being snapped in half.
Is it the camel’s back, breaking under that one last straw? Because in that moment, this dedicated mother—a woman who’s devoted her life to being the best mom she can be—decides to quit. Not literally, because of course that would be impossible, but in a Wally-from-the-comic-Dilbert sort of way.
Oh, Amy’ll still show up for work; it’d be hard not to, given she lives there and all. And yeah, she’ll perform her bare-bones duties. But homework? Breakfast? Marital fidelity? Nah.
From here on out, this mom’s gonna think about herself for a change.
Amy does put herself first for a while. But even in a movie called Bad Moms, being a mom eventually comes out ahead of being bad. Amy makes some extremely self-centered decisions. Yet in the end, her kids come first. And frankly, when she drops the perfect mother act, in some ways she ironically becomes a better mother: She forces her son to do his own school work. She encourages her children to make their own breakfast, which they eventually learn to do. Instead of doing everything for her kids, she makes them take some responsibility themselves.
The other moms, flawed as they are, also re-embrace the call to motherhood in the end. Kiki, a mom of four, could really, really use some time away from the kids. And Carla says she’d rather go to Afghanistan than attend one of her son’s baseball games. But they all get weepy as they think about how much they love their progeny and how, when all’s said and done, they’d do anything for them. Indeed, before the movie ends, even Carla—the baddest mom here—is making hummus wraps for her boy and telling him that she loves him.
There’s a reference to praying for your children. Someone talks about how a relative became a member of ISIS, even though he’s Jewish.
An explicit scene involves Amy catching her husband, Mike having an affair with a woman via video chat online. There’s an implication of masturbation, and the camera shows us a completely nude woman (we see her from the front, side and rear) on his computer screen. At first, Amy thinks her husband is “just” looking at pornography, but she soon realizes it’s that the woman is performing for Mike. “This really feels like cheating,” she says.
Amy kicks Mike out of the house and, a day or two later, tells Kiki and Carla that she wants to get “laid.” They go to a bar and Amy flirts (badly) with several men before she runs into a widower she knows from their kids’ school. They kiss and quickly fall into a physical relationship: We see the two begin to have sex on Amy’s kitchen island before the scene moves to a post-coital moment in the bedroom, where they discuss how great it was. There’s also another visual reference (under the covers) to oral sex.
Verbally, this movie is just one long string of sex jokes. We hear graphic references to oral and anal sex, manual stimulation and explicit discussions of men’s anatomy. Carla uses obscene words and gestures to flirt with a bevy of men (including married fathers), passionately kisses a middle-aged grocery clerk and “encourages” other moms to attend a party by threatening to have sex with their husbands if they don’t. She locks lips with another mother there, then encourages other moms to do the same. (She later brags to Amy about how many women she kissed.) Kiki details her and her husband’s sexual habits.
We see Amy in a bra. Someone encourages her to wear a “slutty” dress. There are scads of crude references to the male and female anatomy. Amy, Carla and Kiki watch a man rip off his shirt in a movie. We hear references of lesbian moms and “moms who used to be dads.”
In a movie postscript, the real-life moms of the movie’s actresses talk about motherhood. One admits to taking her child, Christina Applegate (who plays Gwendolyn), to the movie Cruising, a film that involves the gay, S&M underworld of New York City.
Amy knocks off a rear-view mirror. Her erratic driving in a car without seatbelts sends passengers skidding across seats and smashing into the doors. She nearly hits several other vehicles. Amy’s dog limps around and falls over—the victim of doggie vertigo, we’re told. Kiki fantasizes about having an accident that would put her in the hospital for weeks. We hear rumors that a child killed a neighbor’s ferret.
About 65 f-words, nearly 30 s-words and a bake sale’s worth of doughy profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d–k,” “t-ts” and “p—y.” God’s name is misused about 50 times, including at least once with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused five times.
Gwendolyn plants marijuana joints in Jane’s locker. The principal, when confronting Amy and Jane about the drugs, knows the sort of marijuana used and is impressed with Jane’s apparent skill in rolling the joints. Gwendolyn later refers to Jane as a “crackhead.”
Amy, Carla and Kiki get drunk at a bar, then go to a grocery store and waste several bottles of liquor—pouring them, spraying them and spitting the contents in them—before finally leaving. At a party, they and other mothers get completely inebriated: Martha Stewart (as herself) serves gelatin shots, saying each one has loads of vodka in it. “I start my day with six of these,” she admits. Wine, champagne and other alcoholic spirits are consumed by the vat.
Kiki and another mom inhale nitrous oxide. One mother admits to being addicted to Vicodin. Others admit to giving their children alcohol or drugs.
Amy and Mike end up in a counseling session that, predictably, is a disaster. The counselor advises them to “get divorced as soon as possible.”
Amy and Jane play hooky and sneak into a spa for a day of pampering. There’s a verbal reference to a dog having diarrhea. We hear some racially oriented quips.
A good point lurks behind Bad Mom’s bad, bad behavior: Mothers everywhere deal with some pretty staggering expectations.
More moms are in the workforce than ever before. Yet in the majority of households with two working parents, they’re still doing more cooking, cleaning and child-rearing than dads do. Children, who are pressured at an early age to consider their college prospects, stress more about schoolwork and are more apt to take on a dizzying number of extracurricular activities. Moms are expected to keep pace with all those activities, naturally, even though nature inconsiderately refuses to add extra hours to the day. It’s not enough just to be a good mom anymore. To get everything done, a woman must be a perfect mom.
Bad Moms pushes back on those expectations. In our quest for success and excellence—not bad things in and of themselves—many of us (moms and dads alike) have gone overboard. We’ve made an idol of perfection, which is not only unhealthy, but unscriptural.
But while that message is a worthwhile one, it’s one better conveyed in a TED Talk, not an R-rated comedy. Because when these kinds of comedies protest one form of excess, they invariably swing toward another.
It’s not just the horrifically irresponsible behavior we see from Amy and the other moms here—behavior intended to be outlandishly over-the-top and, at least slightly repudiated by the time the credits roll. The movie’s entire ethos is just messed up.
When Amy makes an impassioned speech about why mothers everywhere need to punt the goal of perfection—suggesting that everyone’s a “bad mom”—woman after woman stands up and confesses their bona fide badness. These confessions include: giving their infants whiskey or drugs to help them pass out, sometimes so they can watch their favorite TV show; starting the day with glasses of margaritas. Amy affirms it all, encouraging them, “It’s OK to be a bad mom!”
But wait: Last the time I heard, it’s against the law to give a baby whiskey. Is that really OK? I mean, shouldn’t there be some middle ground that moms should aim for between perfection and, well, “bad”?
It’s such a cliché to say that parenthood is the most important job we’ll ever have. But there’s truth in that statement. And as such, it’s important to take the job seriously. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t cut ourselves some slack. We all mess up: As a dad, I’ve messed up plenty. But the point isn’t to simply say, “Well, hey, if we’re gonna mess up, I guess it doesn’t matter.” The point is to forgive ourselves , get over it and get up and try again tomorrow.
It’s unhealthy to shoot for perfection, and it can damage both parents and kids. But it’s really, really unhealthy to shoot for bad—something that Bad Moms just doesn’t get.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.