Review: Ma

Score: B

Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, Luke Evans

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rated: R

When it comes to trash, there's the good kind and there's the bad kind. You get a lot of it in horror. Thankfully, Ma is the good kind of trash.

Octavia Spencer makes a four-course meal out of every line of absurd dialogue, devouring every actor who shares a scene with her. Tate Taylor, who directed her to Oscar glory in The Help, has finally found his true calling. It's not prestige movies. It's slick, entertaining nonsense like this and The Girl on the Train. While that film had at least some grander ambition, Ma has no such pretension. It's a Blumhouse production, filmed cheaply in Taylor's native Mississippi, and gets to the creepiness as soon as possible.

Diana Silvers (who's having something of a moment, between this, Glass and Booksmart) plays Maggie, the new kid at school. The popular clique adopt her immediately, taking her to get drunk and high at an abandoned rock quarry. Maggie convinces Sue Ann to buy them booze, and she convinces them to party at her house out of an abundance of caution. It eventually becomes the small town's ultimate party spot, where "Ma" has all the debauchery (and snacks) the kids can handle.

But it takes Maggie entirely too long to realize there's something off about Ma, who reacts violently when they blow her off or snoop around her house. It later becomes clear Ma has a special interest in Erica (Juliette Lewis) and Ben (Luke Evans), the parents of lovebirds of Maggie and Andy (Corey Fogelmanis). To say more would reveal one of the few secrets the film's trailers didn't already spoil. There's also a subplot that makes the least sense of anything in this bonkers movie, but it's a failure of the script, not of the actors.

There's a version of this that's a lot tighter, and a lot more focused on revenge. But the movie's mission statement might as well be this. And in holding true to that, Ma is rollicking good time.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.