Review-Lite: Stage Mother (2020)

Jacki Weaver in Stage Mother

When Maybelline (Jacki Weaver) inherits a drag bar in San Francisco from her recently deceased son she is forced to contend with her prejudices and see things differently as she contends with her failures as a parent. Directed by Thom Fitzgerland, this Canadian produced drama earnestly tells its story from start to finish and its a touching little picture at that, made all the more so by Weaver’s wonderfully repentant performance, one that plays to the quiet wit of a well written script by Brad Hennig. It is in the colour and setting of Fitzgerald’s story that Stage Mother falters. Surrounded by a cast of characters worth devoting time to, it is in the musical numbers that this film finds the flair and colour it is so desperate to bring out. While the musical numbers are original, oftentimes moving and playfully deriding they are the only times that this story feels like it has found it’s true voice, as the rest of Stage Mother hides behind a conventional story, a straight laced story of Maybelline’s second act. The true shame of it all is despite framing this story around understanding and bringing people together, it does so by ignoring the drag queens at the centre of it. All too often they are used as plot devices for Maybelline’s redemption. In the music however Fitzgerald sees them for the performers and people that they are and despite the troublesome filling of this colourful stage show, it is hard to ignore the smalltown feel of this big city film, one that might bring out the bright lights of showbiz but the intimacy of community.


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