Melissa McCarthy owns this comedy.
Life of the Party
Director: Ben Falcone (Tammy)
Screenplay: Falcone, Melissa McCarthy (The Boss)
Cast: McCarthy (Spy), Gillian Jacobs (Walk of Shame)
If good comedy can marry the outrageous with the meaningful, then Melissa McCarthy’s Life of the Party is a fine party of a film. It’s outrageous that she as middle-aged Deanna can go back to college and pal it up with her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), and meaningful to show the positive fruits of hard work to overcome hardships.
Although not every scene or line evokes hilarity, many are spot on in part because McCarthy has the timing to make almost any joke effective, but also because honesty and truth underlie almost every setup. For instance, as Deanna faces divorce from Dan (Matt Walsh), she decides to finish college despite lack of funds and the sheer improbability of integrating with young college students. Her lines are often silly but tinged with a love for life that makes them both funny and poignant. The kids love her.
One of the most improbably interesting and moving bits has her making an oral presentation, for which she has had a life-long fear. Director Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s husband and third time collaborator of Tammy, The Boss) and writers Falcone and McCarthy play the pain longer than usual and resolve it in an unromantic but plausible way. While they do not fall into the clichéd voiceover to tell us this is how life may often resolve itself, they let the sequence rest among the small occurrences of life from which a valiant person like Deanna might survive.
Even though there are too many sorority sisters to fully develop their characters, the film has an undercurrent of goodness that promises everyone, like Deanna, will come out well if they are honest in their pursuits, both of books and of love. As for the wedded relationship of Falcone and McCarthy, the unevenness of the comedy suggests they might consider not collaborating next time.
Deanna need be only a loving mother and student to gain the respect of her classmates. No heroics like those of Indiana Jones (she is, after all an archaeology student) are necessary, just good intentions. Yes, Life of the Party is funny; it is also an effective commentary on loving one another as the true graduation with honors.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com