Movie Review - Ma (2019)
Octavia Spencer (The Help and Hidden Figures) stars as Sue Ann, a nurse and secretary who works at a veterinary office somewhere in Mississippi. She works in a small town, but she lives in a rural area in a fairly nice, country home. She's either divorced or separated from her husband. She has a teenage daughter who has stopped going to school. Her daughter is seemingly ill, but it's never clear if it's cancer or if it's Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Sue Ann does take care of actual sick animals, like dogs with lost limbs, but she's become rather frustrated by it. She's also living an otherwise lonely life.
Diana Silvers (Booksmart and Glass) co-stars as Maggie Thompson, a 16-year-old girl who travels with her single mom to her mom's hometown in Mississippi. Maggie grew up somewhere else, but now she's the new girl in this town. We don't learn too much about Maggie. She seems to be your average teenage girl, trying to acclimate to her school. She sits alone in a library eating lunch when a group of kids approach and take steps to befriend her. There's no explanation as to why these kids approach her, except that one of them has romantic feelings toward her.
The only problem is that they don't have access to alcohol. They have a plan to hang out in front of a liquor store and beg some random adult to buy booze for them. Most adults dismiss the kids, but when Sue Ann sees Andy, she decides to be their supplier of alcohol. She even decides to open up her basement for Andy and his friends to hang out, drink and even party. Sue Ann seemingly is providing a safe space for these young people, not allowing them to drink-and-drive. It quickly though becomes about her reliving her youth through these makeshift parties. This alludes to another queer theme.
Taylor's film has only one character who could be identified as being on that list. I'm not sure if Scotty Landes' script somehow explicitly expresses whether or not he's gay. I'm not sure if Taylor directed the actor to act in a way that could be deemed stereotypically gay. I'm not sure if the actor, Dominic Burgess, made that choice on his own. His mannerisms and tone could be an affect signaling to something that might not be gay or queer, but it's doubtful.
It doesn't go as far as something like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) where the male homoeroticism was so blatant, but there is homoeroticism to be found here. Despite a lesbian kiss, the homoeroticism does lean on the lust for the male body. One of those male bodies is that of Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast and Fast & Furious 6). Evans who is openly gay and whose real-life boyfriend, Victor Turpin, has a small role here has also worked with Taylor before. Evans was in Taylor's The Girl on the Train (2016). Here, Evans plays Ben Hawkins, the father to Andy. Ben becomes the object of desire in a twisted scene that's somewhere between Lorena Bobbitt and Kathy Bates in Misery (1990).
Spencer is great when it comes to that pathos or those comical moments. Her outburst in a nail salon had me cracking up. Unfortunately, Taylor doesn't embrace that comedy more. For example, there is hinting here of what could be called pedophilia but it's hinted in a comedic way, but not much is done with it, until the very end when it's too late and it just comes off as bonkers. That Lorena Bobbitt moment works, but that bonkers tone at the end should have been the tone from the beginning, or else the film should have been quicker in getting there. Otherwise, it feels like it drags. Taylor perhaps wanted or was inspired by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981), he never unleashes Spencer though as fully as Dunaway was unleashed.
Rated R for violent/disturbing material, language, nudity, sexual content, alcohol and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.