From the trailer, it was difficult to tell if Ma would be an enticing thriller, a guilty pleasure, or simply a bad movie. It’s not good if the trailer alone has an identity crisis and let’s just say that Ma definitely has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. That is just one of the many problems it has, making it easily one of the worst movies to come out in 2019.
A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.
The movie starts with Erica (Juliette Lewis) and Maggie (Diana Silvers) moving from California to Erica’s town that she grew up in. That quickly turns into Maggie making new friends who naturally want alcohol so they can do what high schoolers do. After several failed attempts at getting someone to buy it for them, they finally get Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) aka “Ma” to make the purchase. In the first act, Sue Ann’s character is introduced nicely and the tone seems interesting. As a matter of fact, the first act is the only thing that works in this movie. It quickly goes downhill when the kids start partying at Ma’s house and she uncomfortably comes onto these 16 year old kids. It’s easy to understand what the movie is going for, but it simply doesn’t work. Octavia Spencer is a great actress but it is just weird seeing her touch all over teenagers. The uncomfortable aspect only gets worse throughout the movie.
On top of being uncomfortable, Ma suffers from an identity crisis. Watching the trailer, it was easy to tell that this would be a thriller with some comedy in it. Some movies balance that quite well. Unfortunately, Ma is not one of those movies. The tone is all over the place, some of the comedy is weird and happens at the wrong time, and some of the creepy aspects are ruined by a joke that didn’t need to happen. It’s very frustrating because the few quality parts of the script are flattened by unneeded comedy.
Speaking of the script, there’s not much about it that works either. The characters are pretty thin and the story, especially Sue Ann’s motive for her actions, is very weak. Erica and several other characters in the movie all went to high school with Sue Ann. Basically, something happened to her and it messed her up for life. She decides to take it out on all of their kids. So, it makes sense but it just doesn’t work because what happened to her just didn’t seem to warrant her actions — It feels forced overall.
The acting in Ma is pretty solid at least. That and the first act are the only things that really work. This isn’t a movie that you should rush to the theaters to see at all. I was hoping it would at least be a guilty pleasure, but unfortunately it even falls short of that. Plus the ending is very abrupt and leaves about 10 unanswered questions. Wait till Netflix for this one.