Release Date: August 21, 2020
A Texas Choir Mistress (Jacki Weaver) inherits a San Francisco drag club from her late son, Rickey, (Eldon Thiele) with whom she hadn’t been in touch since he came out.
I’m going to be 100% honest with this review and tell you that I equal parts loved and hated Stage Mother. A mother loses her only child with whom she was very close in his early years to a drug addiction. The audience sees him indulge in his drug of choice, go out on stage and pretty much drop dead. His mother, Maybelline, who is the epitome of fabulous is notified of her son’s death and is determined to attend the funeral, disregarding the objections of her husband (Hugh Thompson). Once in San Francisco she seeks to build bridges with the family she feels she has left which are her son’s partner and the people he valued in his life.
Stage Mother is a wonderfully acted movie with weak storytelling. There are number of storylines and if just one or two had been followed and developed it would have been a much stronger piece but the actual focus seemed to be an almost masturbatory “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone/ fabulous straight mother figure saving the motherless.” I wondered what scenes had been deleted that would help the weaker story threads come together. Rickey is addicted to drugs; people tell Maybelline there’s a lot of drugs in the drag community; Maybelline intervenes when she sees one of Rickey’s drag sisters taking drugs basically verbally smacking her hand and staying up with her and all is good? It’s took simple. I’m not saying that this would have been a better movie with a focus on that storyline but with a better focus on any storyline.
Now, let me just say, I wept when Maybelline honored Rickey toward the end of the movie. It was beautiful and, if nothing else, a connection was made with the characters. I would have loved to know more of Cherry Poppins’ (Mya Taylor) story. We meet Cherry and the other queens with a superficial overview and when Cherry goes to speak with her estranged wife, Maybelline tags along but the depth of Cherry’s struggle is unknown to the viewer other than that brief moment. Its the filling in the blanks moment that we often see in fiction that because the audience maybe knows a transgender person, they’ll assign that struggle to Cherry.
Stage Mother also too easily course corrects for the mother of this late gay man. Jacki Weaver is a wonderful actress and the emotion with which she plays the role convinces the audience that the “loss” of her son has weighed on her for many years and she mostly crumbled to the pressure of her husband. We’re supposed to believe the husband is a villain but Hugh Thompson plays that role unconvincingly. We don’t really get a history of why, for so many years, Maybelline didn’t reach out because if we know nothing else about her from this movie it’s that she’s a woman that does what she wants to do.
I had mixed feelings about Stage Mother but overall it’s a very watchable movie and one that people should see. Jackie Beat is great as Dusty Muffin even if she is in the piece too little. Allistair MacDonald as Joan of Arkansas and Oscar Moreno as Tequila Mockingbird are wonderful in their roles. I would love to see movies following each of them and expanding on who they are and where they came from.
Watch it and let me know. Am I offbase in this review? Did you cry as I did during the honorary musical piece?
Watch Stage Mother (Thom Fitzgerald) on