Film review: Life of the Party

The comeback of the older, mature woman on screen 2018 has been one of the best years of cinema I can recall.

Finally after decades of Hollywood and world cinema, female character of all ages are rightfully taking centre screen. LOTP is no exception.

I’ve been an McCarthy fan for some time: Gilmore GirlsSaturday Night LiveThe HeatIdentity TheftTammyBridemaidsGhostbusters… she is a comic tour de force who steals every scene she is in.

As Deanna, a middle aged mum who is forced to start over, McCarthy has really hit her stride. Co-writing the film, which is an exceptional piece of Hollywood comedy, she shines a light on a bright future for the silver screen. A revolution. This film is hysterically funny, the only moments I stopped laughing were the ones where my heartstrings were being tugged to tears. Yes, it’s formulaic, but it needs to follow the rules of comedic narrative structure in order to highlight its originality of character and humour.

And even better, this is comedy that is refreshing – it’s not based in sex or toilet humour. Instead, it’s in character, witty dialogue and self mocking. More than that, the storyline puts women very much as the forefront, but remains subtle in its feminist message. It shows us how women, and their friendships, can overcome any adversity and indeed come out stronger. It shows what happens when women pull together and it guides us to that message without hitting us over the head with it.

There is no over-glamorisation of women, no air-brushed barbie aspirations – instead it’s a celebration women of different shapes and sizes and experiences all played with authenticity and sensibility. In particular a stand out supporting performance from Gillian Jacobs who is deservedly taking her moment to shine.

There are of course male characters in the film and they are given more than a casual, 2 dimensional treatment, whether it’s the annoying but not entirely hateable ex husband or the young lover who evolves throughout thanks in part to his relationship with Deanna.

The film isn’t perfect – for example the crisis moment that drives the film into Act 3 (the protagonist’s low moment where typically they fuck up and all seems lost) didn’t push hard enough – but I see with a character like Deanna that’s hard to do.

Brava Melissa.

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