Ma Parent Guide
Don't waste 90 precious minutes of your life on this pile of cinematic garbage. Please. Don't.
Parent Movie Review
Erica (Juliette Lewis) and her daughter Maggie Thompson (Diana Silvers) have moved from California back to Erica’s hometown in Ohio. Maggie manages to make some friends, but things go downhill when she tries to get adults to bootleg liquor for them. One such adult, Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), offers her basement as a drinking spot so the teens won’t drive under the influence. Soon, Sue Ann - who now insists on being called Ma - is hosting teenagers from all over the county to get drunk in her basement. But there’s a rule: never go upstairs. When Maggie breaks that rule, things start to unravel pretty quickly, and Ma suddenly seems less friendly…
I’m going to be blunt. This movie is terrible. Content issues aside (and I’ll get there later), the filmmaking is a disaster. This production can’t even come up with a consistent tone. Sometimes it feels like it’s trying to be a raunchy teen comedy about a rag-tag group of friends trying to get all liquored up in a dead-end small town. Other times, it feels like a sloppy, poorly executed thriller, and still other times, it turns into a bad wannabe slasher horror flick. It spends its interminable hour and half run time bouncing from genre to genre like a ping pong ball in a dryer.
Octavia Spencer is a talented performer and is clearly trying her best, but with the tonal confusion her performance loses a lot of authenticity. Any depth to her character is further damaged by allusions to her backstory, which involves a traumatic sexual assault and a socially isolated high school experience. And this is where the movie goes from bad to terrible. Portraying victims of bullying and sexual assault as psychotic monsters is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting and harmful to real life victims. With this level of toxically stupid screenwriting, it’s not surprising that even a powerhouse actress like Octavia Spencer can’t save the film. (Although I have to wonder why she would even try….)
As if the script weren’t bad enough, Ma presents a cornucopia of content concerns. The plot is centered around underage drinking and features teens binge drinking to the point of unconsciousness as well as vaping and using pot. This alone would make this film unsuitable for teen viewing. But there is also excessive sexual content, including nudity, a brief scene of a woman grabbing male genitalia, and graphic discussion of a sexual act we can’t describe on a family website. The movie features extreme violent content, including a scene where someone’s mouth is sewn shut and another where a character is tortured and is threatened with genital mutilation. And to make things worse - yes, it’s possible - the movie is chock full of profanity, including frequent use of the sexual expletive. My only regret in grading this film is that our web software doesn’t allow me to give it an “F” – “D” is as low as I can go.
If Ma had moderated its content issues and had managed to be scary or entertaining, then maybe I might have been able to cautiously recommend it to genre fans with nothing better to do, but in this case, I’d recommend finding something else to do. Anything. Clean your basement, paint your house, watch your grass grow, alphabetize your bookshelf, just don’t see Ma. If housework doesn’t appeal to you, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is in theaters right now, and that’s two hours of non-stop fun. You can thank me for saving you from Ma’s unrelenting boredom later.Directed by Tate Taylor. Starring Octavia Spencer, Missi Pyle, Luke Evans, and Juliette Lewis. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release May 31, 2019. Updated September 2, 2019
Rating & Content Info
Why is Ma rated R? Ma is rated R by the MPAA for violent/disturbing material, language throughout, sexual content, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Violence: Two people are shoved against a wall. A person is run over by a truck. An individual is tortured, including threats of genital mutilation, cutting, and being given dog’s blood intravenously. Someone is severely burned with a hot iron. An individual is struck in the head with an iron. An individual’s mouth is sewn shut. An individual is stabbed in the abdomen. A character is shot twice in the chest. A person is briefly hanged. An individual is stabbed to the back. A building is shown on fire. There are jump scares in the film.
Sexual Content: There are frequent references to teen sex, which is implied to be happening off-screen in a few shots. There are crude jokes made about oral sex frequently. A teenaged character is forced to strip at gunpoint and is shown completely nude with a hand covering their genitals. Teens have graphic discussions about and perform explicit sexual acts we can’t describe on a family website. A woman is briefly seen grabbing a man’s naked genitals. An individual is tricked into having sex with someone other than the person they believed they would be with. There is a brief scene of full-frontal male nudity. An adult character passionately kisses a teenage character.
Profanity: There is near-constant use of profanity in all categories, primarily scatological terms and sexual expletives, as well as obscene hand gestures. Terms of deity are also commonly used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teen characters are shown binge drinking throughout the film, and a number of shots show them smoking marijuana and vaping. Several characters are involuntarily dosed with sedatives. Several adult characters are shown drinking socially. Adult characters are shown bootlegging alcohol for minors.
Page last updated September 2, 2019
Ma Parents' Guide
Erica and her friends are looking for an adult to bootleg liquor for them. What is the legal drinking age in your jurisdiction? Why do society and the legal system try to deter teen drinking? Why is consuming alcohol even more dangerous for teens than for adults?
Some of the teens in Ma smoke marijuana. It is commonly believed that marijuana is less dangerous and addictive than alcohol or other drugs. Is this true? How does marijuana affect teenagers?
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Fortunately, there are much better films with similar elements. For adult audiences looking for an actual horror movie, Jordan Peele’s Get Out shows the evil lurking in sleepy suburbs. 2019’s The Intruder focuses on the difficulty of shaking off an unbalanced stalker. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) features children paying the price for their parents’ actions when a deranged pedophile comes back from the dead seeking vengeance. For older teen audiences, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is still one of the best horror/thrillers ever made, with revolutionary filmmaking and incredible tension.