Stage Mother review: Jacki Weaver headlines feelgood comedy

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Jacki Weaver and Lucy Liu lead the ensemble of Stage Mother, a film that’s now playing in UK cinemas – and here’s our review.

This is a film with its heart very much in the right place. Jacki Weaver takes on the role of Maybelline, a woman living in Texas, supervising the church choir, and estranged from her son. In one of the more sombre openings of a feelgood movie, we see said son opening up a drag show in the San Francisco club he runs, and promptly dying. Not in the ‘that was a bad performance’ sense, either.

The club then ends up bestowed to Maybelline, who has to overcome prejudices (primarily of her husband) and travel to San Francisco to explore everything she missed out on. There, she encounters Nathan (Adrian Grenier) and Sienna (Lucy Liu), as she further discovers more of the life she never got to share with her child, and has to make some tough decisions as to what to do next.

Not that Stage Mother is a film with bountiful surprises up its sequinned sleeves. It far more prefers to follow the staple diet of the feelgood mother, yet it struggles to generate the emotional heft to effectively do so. Weaver is solid in the lead role, but her character’s obstacles never seem that dramatic. The sketched backgrounds of the club performers, meanwhile, allow her to do a bit of wand-waving, and try and find happier endings for some of them. It’s following a path you could naturally and confidently navigate if someone had switched all the lights out and twizzled you round a dozen times.

Sadly, the pizzazz of the movie is a little on the light side too. The big shows in the club are, it feels, hostages to a limited budget. The staging of them just feels a little basic, which is in keeping with the original foundations of the club, but as things build, the shows don’t come across as shot and presented in that imaginative a way. It’s hard not to recall just how compelling The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert was, also on a shoestring budget, whilst sitting watching this movie.

It’s a perfectly decent film at its heart, and hard to dislike (not that I felt compelled to try particularly hard). Furthermore, Jackie Beat makes a welcome and memorable cameo appearance, and its running time is a welcome and sprightly 93 minutes.

Still, it all feels, well, a bit flat really. A film I found myself willing to be better than it ultimately turned out to be.

Out now on DVD & Digital from Altitude Film Entertainment


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