“Kids will make fun of you, that’s what they do, that’s why you gotta stay here with me.”
In high school I didn’t drink, or go to parties, or smoke weed. I mostly just watched teen comedies and horror movies where teens did these things and I lived vicariously through them. My wildest thing was sneaking out of the house at night to go listen to music and swing in the playpark. It was wild ya’ll. But what I’m getting at here, is that I spent most of Ma confused at the stupidity of teenagers. And I think even if I had watched it as a teenager and not a 30-year-old woman, I would’ve been confused. Honestly the person I related to the most in this flick was the girl who pretended to be passed out on the couch the entire party so people would leave her alone. I mean….goals.
There’s something in teenager’s brains that has fully formed yet, and that’s called the logic button. And Ma is all about ignoring the logic button and going along for the ride. And honestly, to me, this movie has nothing to do with those teenagers, and everything to do with the reckless adults.
Ma came out earlier this year and was directed by Tate Taylor. It stars Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, and Luke Evans.
There’s a lot of stuff being touched in Ma - Munchausen by proxy, bullying, trauma, PTSD, abuse, Stu living his best life. It’s a lot to take in on one watching. And this was my first time watching, I chose it for day one of #HBH31. I heard a lot of mixed reviews on this flick when the movie first came out but I had no idea what I was really walking into.
The first three quarters of the movie are like a twisted thriller, and then Sue Ann runs over Mercedes with her car out of nowhere and the last half hour is a fucked-up horror film. I don’t know if I like that or not? But, I was highly entertained.
What I really want to talk about though (she says, 300 rambling words in) is Sue Ann and her trauma. This is a woman completely unhinged by the time we meet her. She’s been abusing her daughter most likely for years, I’m assuming ever since her husband left, and she keeps her locked up in her house. It’s a clear Munchausen by proxy case with Sue Ann insisting Genie is sick and forced to stay in a wheelchair. But why does she do this? The story never delves that deep which I think is one of the downsides. They’ve given Sue Ann SO much trauma, that some of it just doesn’t pan out. Did Sue Ann blame Genie for her husband leaving and in her muddled brain determine that Genie must be punished?
The relationship between Genie and Sue Ann was perhaps the saddest part of this film, and something I wasn’t expecting. Two particular moments stand out to me, the first being when the cop arrives and hears Maggie struggling in the basement. Genie comes out of nowhere and acts as if the noise was made by her. She saves her Mother in that moment despite everything she’s been put through. Of course, it doesn’t work, because then Maggie starts yelling and Sue Ann is forced to shoot the cop. She then whirls around and blames Genie for her having to do it. This was your fault! Which then leads us to Genie saving all of the teens from the basement by smacking her Mother upside the head with a frying pan causing her to tumble down the stairs, knocking over a candle, and passing out. The second scene that stood out a lot to me and was quite emotional was when Erica and Stu come and rescue the kids from the basement. The final showdown has Erica clinging to her daughter Maggie as Sue Ann clings to her daughter, Genie. It doesn’t matter what Erica is screaming at Sue Ann, it’s just the image of these two Moms clinging to their children for dear life.
How two women turned out so completely different yet now stand opposite in a burning basement, holding onto their children and therefore their youth. It was a pretty phenomenal parallel.
Onto Sue Ann’s next trauma – the horrifying experience from high school. Throughout the movie we see flashbacks and it builds that sickening feeling in your stomach because you know something horrible happened. It had a very Carrie vibe to it. When you find out she was tricked and mortified in front of a huge chunk of the school, your heart does go out to her. Does it excuse murder and torture? Nah. But damn if you don’t feel for her in that moment.
When she finally snaps and tricks Ben, the leader of the pack from high school, into her home there is a part of you that is kind of happy to see Ben go. And honestly throughout most of this movie you do snap back and forth between feeling bad for Sue Ann and cheering her on, and being horrified by her. Which is sort of the point right? That’s why the teens are so easily manipulated by her, they feel bad for her and party with her. Then she goes too far – her desperation slipping through, and the teens pull away. Sue Ann then manipulates them again, saying she’s dying of cancer, so that the kids come back and party with her. She’s fucking complicated as hell and damn good at what she does.
So, how did this young woman go from being the butt of the jokes to becoming this clever manipulative murderer? Perhaps through her grief and embarrassment she learned survival of the fittest.
But where this movie suffers is its focus on the kids. I would’ve loved if we could’ve spent more time on Sue Ann and delving deep into her twisted psyche. She would make a great character study if only they gave us just little bit more.
But, I guess all my rambling is for this – Ma was a pretty great movie. It had my emotions all twirled around and confused. It has practically nothing to do with the teenagers in the center of the story but is in fact all about the adults and their own sins from childhood. Their kids are just the victims of circumstance. It’s an interesting tale of trauma and the chain reaction that can affect an entire community of people.