What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film includes some loud displays of drunkenness and physical violence, framed as comedy (including Jane Fonda slamming Jennifer Lopez's head onto a table). Though the tone is mostly light, the jokes become repetitive: Fonda and Lopez spar while vapid son/fiancé Michael Vartan stands by (or at one point actually disappears for a medical convention, being a doctor). Characters drink, smoke, and make snide remarks to and about one another.
What's the story?
Having survived a series of husbands and a grueling globe-trotting career, self-loving celebrity interviewer Viola Fields (Jane Fonda) finally makes it to the top only to be fired and replaced by a younger version of herself. She suffers a \"breakdown,\" and is shipped off to a clinic to recuperate. On her return home, she learns that her doctor son Kevin (Michael Vartan) is going to \"marry a temp,\" namely, sensible, Kewpie-doll-voiced, proud-of-her-booty Charlie (Jennifer Lopez). Though Viola schemes to win back her son's attention by abusing Charlie to the point that she's run away, the women are actually well-matched. Because Charlie is here playing the nice, non-diva J-Lo, she doesn't fight back until it's absolutely plain Viola's been deceiving everyone in order to Get Her Way.
Is it any good?
It's clear that the women in MONSTER-IN-LAW are doomed to repeat their learned, bad behavior indefinitely. What's most disturbing about the movie is not the familiar formula, but the fact that classy Fonda is stooping to it. What's most interesting is the film's use of both "transgressive" women -- Fonda and Lopez -- as they form a continuum of ambition, success, and widely broadcast implosions and meltdowns.
But the film's liveliest element is Viola's long-suffering assistant Ruby (Wanda Sykes), a wisecracking sidekick who speaks just enough truth to seem funny, but not enough to lose her job. The fact that she's black, surrounded, particularly at Viola's mansion, by literal and metaphorical whiteness, only underlines her welcome distinctiveness and her caricature-ish wisdom.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the jealousy and silly fighting between the two primary women. Why do women (in movies) compete over a man's attention? How does the movie make their insecurities into jokes? How might the mother and son develop better communication?