Review: Life of the Party is Ben Falcone’s Funniest and Best Film to Date.
Life of the Party is the third feature-length film directed by Melissa McCarthy’s hubby Ben Falcone. Melissa McCarthy stars as Deanna, a happy-go-lucky mom who has given up most of her dreams to take care of her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) and her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon). After dropping Maddie off for her senior year of college, Dan reveals that he has been cheating on Deanna and wants a divorce. Shocked and confused, Deanna decides to turn lemons into lemonade by going back to school at Decatur University, which just so happens to be, the same college where Maddie is currently enrolled.
Comedies nowadays are so hit or miss for me. As someone who grew up in the 80s, I adored watching comedies because they were based on characters rather than how far writers could push a joke to make it shockingly funny. I had mixed feelings about Life of the Party going into it because the trailers and television spots did very little to WOW me. In fact, from the trailers, the film almost seemed like the gender-swapped remake of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School which I watched a lot growing up and enjoyed more than I probably should have.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Life of the Party. There were several moments that made me laugh incredibly hard and some scenes where I found myself tearing up due to the amount of laughter. The reason why I believe the jokes work so well is that they rely on the talent of the actors to produce the laughs. Gillian Jacobs, Heidi Gardner, Maya Rudolph, Jessie Ennis and Melissa McCarthy deliver their dialogue in such a way that you cannot help but laugh or at least smile whenever they are on-screen.
McCarthy, who is known for her physical comedy is very lively and loud yet awkward and sweet as Deanna. Gillian Jacobs’ Helen, often referred to as Coma Girl, uses her facial mannerisms and dry line delivery to generate some big laughs. Jessie Ennis who plays Debbie is an innocent, sweet, and awkward sorority sister with a ton of allergies and social anxiety. Maya Rudolph as Deanna’s outspoken best friend is hilarious especially during an unexpected plot reveal which takes place during a scene in a restaurant about half way through the film.
While I do believe that every single actress had their moment in the spotlight, my favorite character was by far, Lenore played by Heidi Gardner. Now, I have not watched SNL in years because I just don’t think it is as funny as it used to be but I am curious to watch it now because of how funny Heidi Gardner is in this film. Her character Lenore can be best described as Deanna’s roommate, an emo hermit unwilling to leave her dorm room. This withdrawal from people combined with her strange personality freaks Deanna out. Every single scene that featured Lenore had me laughing out loud. Her performance was so unexpected and whenever she was paired with another character it created an uncomfortable situation that as a result produced big laughs.
The strong and likable female cast is what makes Life of the Party so effective. There is a genuine level of sweetness among these characters due to the undeniable chemistry that exists between each of these actresses. I felt like each one of these characters was so different from one another yet they were each likable in their own unique way. By the time the film comes to a close, I felt like I got to know each of these women and who they are as people.
While I enjoyed the film overall, there are some things that just didn’t work. The first fifteen minutes of the film is really bad. I get that the scenes were used to set up the story, but I found them to be dull, unfunny, and generic. While the rest of the film is a lot better, I felt the need to point this out because with any movie or television show you should always try to grab the viewer’s attention right away but this film fails to do that.
Another criticism that I had is how cliched it was at times. Again, this wasn’t always the case, as there were some scenes that I didn’t see coming but for example, how Debby Ryan played the mean-girl felt too “on the nose” to me. While I won’t criticize the ending because I have come to accept that films like this end the way they end, I do need to say that I hate when a story tries to redeem mean and unlikeable characters within the last 10 minutes of the film. I noticed that this is a trend in a lot of female-driven comedies (Bad Moms comes to mind) and I feel like it is always so unbelievable and forced whenever it occurs. I understand that women gotta stick together but not everyone likes or accepts one another. It’s just not how the world works and by forcing this message into a film, it only hurts the film as a whole. I know that I can’t be the only person who feels this way so, I would like to ask nicely, please stop doing this all the time.
Life of the Party delivers on its promise while providing a lot of laughs and a good amount of heart along the way. This is my second favorite Melissa McCarthy performance right behind Spy, and the terrific supporting cast is without question, the heart, and soul of the film. I loved spending time with all these ladies and wouldn’t mind seeing them working together again soon. While Life of the Party may not be a gamechanger, I do believe it is one of the funniest mainstream films of 2018 so far. This is the perfect mother/daughter comedy, and New Line Cinema is smart for releasing it just in time for Mother’s Day.
Scott ‘Movie Man’Menzel’s rating for Life of the Party is an 8 out of 10.