What a Drag: Our Review of ‘Stage Mother’

What a Drag: Our Review of ‘Stage Mother’

Stage Mother’s protagonist, Maybelline Metcalf (Jacki Weaver), is a Texan, a director of a local choir, an estranged mother Ricky Pedia, who owns a San Francisco drag bar that he calls Pandora’s Box. His sudden death to a drug overdose gives her the determination to learn more about Ricky. That involves one liner head to head arguments with her unofficial son-in-law Nathan (Adrian Grenier). He resents her for many reasons, including the fact that Ricky didn’t want to marry him until she returns into Ricky’s life. And since they didn’t enter into a marriage, Nathan loses everything to her, which includes Pandora’s Box.

Nathan expects Maybelline to sell the bar but she does something weirder – she does her best to try to keep the place afloat and ingratiates herself into Ricky’s coworkers’ lives. She criticizes the outfit of Ricky’s best friend Sienna (Lucy Liu) before a date with a bad boy. She then indulges boy talk with Ricky’s drag sisters (including Mya Taylor) before rehearsals. Part of the pitch here is that she is a Texan, which can go a few ways. The first is that she’s a conservative who converts. The second is that Southern women are basically drag queens and that she’s not the conservative Christian that everyone thinks she is. Or she could be a combination of both. The thing is is that Brad Hennig’s script doesn’t build her character enough before she leaves her comfort zone.

Part of Maybelline’s ingratiation involves steering Ricky’s drag sisters onto the right path. She stays for a night in the apartment of one of those sisters, Joan, after a date. She interrupts that date by going to Joan’s place for the first time and rid the place of drugs. Human nature is irrational, that’s understandable. But there’s no indication on how her date reacts to the interruption. And audiences have seen enough movies to know that getting rid of someone’s drugs is a more laborious process than just emptying baggies onto a curb. It’s like facts don’t matter here.

Two more things. First, as someone who has both been to drag bars in San Francisco and Toronto, Pandora’s Box does not look like a drag bar. It looks more like a place that doesn’t have a proper liquor license. The jaundiced lighting and the pastel wallpaper also makes it look a movie set. Second, Weaver is good in the few quiet moments she gets, but either it’s a case of Thom Fitzgerald’s directing or an off performance when she has dialogue. As Maybelline, she does a lot of pleading and negotiation. But there’s little fire behind her words, and that’s just unfortunate.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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