Stage Mother

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Stage Mother Movie Poster Image
Bawdy comedy puts lipstick on overcoming prejudice.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love means acceptance and support. Message of building a bridge to people whose lifestyle may be different from yours. Communication is a theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Maybelline, a Southern conservative Christian, didn't step up while her son was alive, she reconnects with him/his memory by caring for and protecting the people he loved. The film's LGBTQ+ community includes positive representations of a Black transgender woman and a friend of the community who's an Asian American woman. 

Violence

Sexual assault. Gun pointed to stop an attacker. 

Sex

Heavy sexual slang, conversation, innuendo. One scene of sexual activity shows a nude male (genitals covered) and a woman wearing bra and underwear. Comedic sexual gestures. Plot hinges on a character's sexual identity. Married woman goes on a date with someone who's not her husband.

Language

Strong language, some of it sexual in nature, includes "a--hole," "balls," "bitch," "blow," "bulls--t," "d--k," "piss,"  "p---y," "s--t," "sluttiest," "sucks," and several uses of "f--k." 

Consumerism

Several references to the high cost of living in San Francisco, including taking a shot at grocer Whole Foods.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use, depicted in a negative light. Smoking without consequences. Primary location is a bar. A shot is taken for courage, discussion of free drinks as a reward, and friends drink wine together.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stage Mother is a comedy that promotes tolerance and inclusion, as well as self-discovery. Characters who start out on opposite sides of the belief spectrum -- coming from the LGBQT+ community and from the Southern religious conservative community -- demonstrate to viewers that even those who are very different have a lot to gain from one another. Main character Maybelline (Jacki Weaver) is made sympathetic through her realization (belated as it is) that alienating her child because of his sexual identity was a mistake, and the importance of both communication and unconditional love are clear themes. Sexual innuendo, mostly used for humor, is off the charts, and there's plenty of swearing ("s--t," "p---y," "f--k," etc.), too. Despite all the sex talk, there's only one scene that depicts a sex act, but it may be troubling to viewers, as it involves a consensual sex act that turns into assault. Someone points a gun at an attacker. Drug use is shown, but it's depicted in a negative light. On the other hand, smoking is shown without consequence, and most of the movie's action takes place in a bar, where drinking is shown positively.

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What's the story?

In STAGE MOTHER, conservative Texas church choir leader Maybelline (Jacki Weaver) travels to San Francisco against her husband's wishes to attend the funeral of their son Rickey (Eldon Thiele), whom they became estranged from because he was gay. She inherits Rickey's faltering drag club and begins to realize that it's not the only thing that needs turning around.

Is it any good?

While everything falls together a little too easily, this musical comedy about working through prejudice encourages empathy for and understanding of others. It makes heroes of both "sides" (the LGBTQ+ community and Southern Evangelical Christians) while also nudging each about where they could do better. Having a sympathetic main character who's been part of the Religious Right is notable: Hollywood can't create a world of equal inclusivity if it excludes a significant portion of the population. That said, for a woman who didn't maintain contact with Rickey because of her disapproval of his identity, Maybelline turns around pretty quickly to embrace and mother his friends, partner, and colleagues. Similarly, they quite speedily create a cozy relationship with her. It's all a little pat, but aside from that nagging bit of convenience, the film is heartwarming, funny, and entertaining. 

The success of the film rests on Weaver's capable shoulders, and she proves once again that she's a phenomenal acting talent. As Maybelline, she creates a character who's gentle and caring, awakening to who she's been and the grave mistake she's made. Weaver's comedy chops are sharp, and she's perfectly paired with co-star Lucy Liu, who turns comedic dialogue into barbed wire laughs. The same can't be said for Adrian Grenier, alas, from whom nothing rings true. He plays Nathan, Rickey's life partner, who runs the business side of their operation. For Grenier, the role is the opportunity to break out of his womanizing Entourage character, but instead he just demonstrates his lack of acting chops. On the other hand, his character is the only one who totally avoids stereotypes. The drag shows have dazzling costumes and fun music -- when the finale hits, it's the kind of over-the-top moment you might expect, with an emotional impact you won't. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes. Does Stage Mother reinforce or undermine LGBTQ+ stereotypes? What about stereotypes about Southern Christians? Do you think Maybelline, Bevette, and Jeb play into or defy the typical characterization?

  • How does the media's modern portrayal of drag culture compare to the past, when heterosexual comedians like Milton Berle, Tom Hanks, and Martin Lawrence would dress up like women for laughs? How does highlighting a marginalized community in film or TV encourage inclusion and awareness?

  • What do you think Stage Mother's intent is? Do you think it succeeds in conveying that message?

  • How do the characters use communication to overcome their prejudices? What do they eventually gain from their new perspective?

  • What does the movie say about acceptance? How should people interact with friends or family members who don't share the same beliefs or values that they do?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love LGBTQ+ characters

Character Strengths

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