PARTY MOM

This film stars actress, comedian, and podcaster Krista Allen, whom y’all know I’ve long been a big fan of. Described as what happens when The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills crash a Lifetime movie, this film premiered Friday night on the Lifetime Movie Network.

Written and Directed by Michael Feifer, PARTY MOM also stars Elise Luthman as Brittany, a 15 year old girl who has recently moved to a new city in California with her family, and has just become friends with a girl named Ashley (Amber Frank), who lives in Beverly Hills. While Brittany’s family appears to be solidly middle-class, and therefor are doing just fine for themselves, Brittany nevertheless feels intimidated and embarrassed in comparison to Ashley’s wealthy lifestyle. Ashley lives in a large mansion with her single mother, Jackie (Krista), who is very permissive and a self-described “Party Mom.” Ashley and her other friends are also able to go out shopping and buy whatever they want. In the opening scene of the film Brittany arrives at Jackie and Ashley’s place to attend a daytime pool party, which is attended by dozens of wealthy teenagers who, of course, spend half the time on their phones taking selfies and posting about the party.

It’s in scenes like this where the movie very nicely contrasts the home lives of the two teens. Ashley comes from a stable home, with parents, Carline and Gary (Megan Ward and Brian Krause) who love each other, and a younger sister, Emma (Savannah Judy). Her mother, in particular, is very concerned for Brittany’s well-being. Yet Brittany is envious of how great she thinks Ashley’s life is. But while Ashley has plenty of money and “popularity,” her mother Jackie is more concerned with having a good time, partying and drinking, and appears to be vicariously living her life through Ashley. The constant stream of parties Jackie hosts are as much for her as they are for Ashley, who finds Brittany’s life so foreign that when she hears that Brittany’s parents are still married after 18 years, Ashley reacts in shock, openly questioning if they’re only staying together for Brittany’s sake. It’s as if she can’t even comprehend the idea of a happily married couple remaining in love, which tells you everything you need to know about her background.

Caroline begins to be wary of Ashley’s influence on Brittany. So when Ashley invites Brittany to another party, this one at night, with an offer to let her sleep over, Caroline puts her foot down and forbids her. Nevertheless Brittany sneaks out and goes to the party. There she meets a couple of older guys, one of whom (played by Cody Sulek) begins aggressively flirting with her, and he invites her and another girl to go with him and his friend to another party. I’ll note that the “other guy” in this scenario is played by Krista’s son, Jake Moritt, who I have to say does a very good job in this small, but crucial role. Jake’s character, Dillon, is the driver, despite the fact that he’s been drinking. And the night ends in tragedy as he crashes, killing both boys and the other girl, leaving Brittany as the sole survivor, albeit with severe injuries.

After finding out what happened, Caroline immediately rats out Jackie to the cops, who arrest her, and the next day Jackie is charged for several crimes, including giving alcohol to minors, and for a couple of manslaughter charges, as she’s held partially responsible for the fatal crash (as the boys wouldn’t have been drunk if they hadn’t been drinking at her house before they left). Despite the seriousness of the crime, Jackie doesn’t appear to take it seriously. And this attitude is borne out when the film jumps ahead to the end of the trial where she is found Not Guilty on all counts. We only see the trial in a brief montage, so we don’t see what Jackie’s defense was, but it’s basically implied that she just got away with everything because she’s a Rich White Woman, which isn’t exactly that unbelievable, is it?

If you think I just gave away the ending of the film, oh no. There was still a half hour left. Caroline and Gary are in shock after the verdict, as Brittany is still in the hospital recovering from her injuries, and Gary is determined to confront Jackie, who is out celebrating with her friends. What happens next? NO SPOILERS!

I think I’ve given away enough. But this film takes several more dramatic twists, keeping you on the edge of your seat, as it races towards it’s dramatic climax.

Cast-wise, there were no weak-links. Everyone did a great job in their roles. The stand-outs being Elise Luthman, who pretty much carries the first half of the film, and Megan Ward who was very believable as her concerned, but not overbearing, mother. And, of course Krista Allen, who steals every scene she’s in, and carries the second half of the film. Her performance is crucial as, if played differently, it could have changed the whole tone of the film. She could have easily played Jackie as a comedic character, the boozy rich lady trying to cling to her youth by partying with teenagers. It could have been an over-the-top caricature. But even when delivering lines like “look at her, she looks like she shops at an outlet mall!” (which is directed at Caroline, in court, during Jackie’s parole hearing), Krista plays it straight. Jackie is not a funny or glamourous character, she’s a broken woman. Numbing her pain with alcohol and not taking anything seriously, not even after being arrested. And that’s likely because she’s never faced any serious consequences for her actions. And Krista nails it. Amber Frank and Brian Krause also deserve kudos for their performances.

Likewise, Michael Feifer deserves praise  for writing this unique story. Just when you think the film is going one way, it pivots into another direction. His very clever twists make Party Mom an exciting and suspenseful movie..

GRADE:

PARTY MOM is airing on LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK, check local listing for dates.

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