In her new movie, Melissa McCarthy parties hard at a fraternity house, juggles a casual romance with a campus hottie, and even gets a head-to-toe makeover by her college-aged daughter. And she does it all at the age of 47 — something that had me happy dancing out of the theater.
McCarthy stars as Deanna Miles, a full-time housewife and mom who has a fierce love for her only daughter Maddie and a passion for bedazzled sweatshirts. And like so many of us, she also has the resilience and inner strength of a true mama bear.
Mere moments after dropping Maddie off for her final year of college, Deanna is completely sideswiped by some majorly painful news. Her hubby of 23 years has decided to dump her in an effort to marry a mistress Deanna knew nothing about.
Shocked and saddened by the experience, the mom takes stock of her life and realizes how much she put herself last during Maddie’s childhood. But instead of dwelling in her heartbreak for too long, she courageously gives herself the second chance she never had — to finish college and get her degree. And in doing so, Deanna provides her daughter with one unforgettable senior year as they attend classes at the same university together.
In a press release for the movie, McCarthy shares why she loved playing a mom who finally made herself a top priority.
“Deanna takes that step many of us think about doing, but never actually do it,” says McCarthy. “We get to see her fulfill a dream she’d given up on, which leads her on this really fun and, in some ways, totally unexpected adventure.”
Deanna’s story really resonated with me in particular, because I watched my own mom struggle with her identity as I grew up. My mother poured her heart and soul into parenting my brothers, sister, and me, but then when we became adults and moved away, she totally felt lost. Piled on top of those feelings was the grief of my parents’ divorce, which only served to make my mom’s transition harder. She watched us grow into passionate, driven, and independent adults — all the while wondering why she didn’t feel that way herself. And once I personally encountered motherhood, I faced the same exact fears and worries that she did.
But because of McCarthy and her uplifting portrayal of Deanna, I will always remember to put my own oxygen mask on first.
McCarthy co-wrote Life of the Party with husband Ben Falcone, and the two were especially excited to write a story about mothers and daughters, since they have two girls of their own. And I have to say, watching Maddie help her mom find herself again gave me all the feels. Molly Gordon, the actress playing Maddie, couldn’t agree more.
“I’m really close with my mom,” Gordon says in the press release. “So this was very meaningful to me, to be in a movie that shows it’s cool and acceptable to be close with your mom.”
Maddie’s road to accepting her mom as a fellow student starts out hilariously awkward, and it certainly doesn’t help that her sorority sisters instantly fall in love with Deanna. The young women are totally down for helping her have an awesome college experience, even giving her the youthful nickname “Dee Rock.” They’re also inspired to no end by Deanna’s love for Maddie. And I honestly can’t blame them!
While Maddie struggles at first with the massive change of seeing her mom on a regular basis, she soon realizes that Deanna is not only her biggest fan, but the best mom she could ever possibly have. And suddenly, the decision to jump onboard the “Dee Rock” train is a no-brainer. This is when the true heart of Life of the Party emerges. As they all watch Maddie’s mom finally live her best life, the sorority sisters begin allowing themselves to dream bigger and believe in themselves more than they ever have before. Which makes Deanna’s story a win-win for everyone.
As McCarthy’s character navigates her alma mater a second time around, she blossoms into the confident, joyful woman she was always meant to be. We watch her stand up to class bullies, bravely navigate sex for the first time in years, and work through some overwhelming public speaking fears. And with each new experience, Deanna becomes the kind of daring woman we all want to be when we grow up.
As expected, the hilarious actress doesn’t disappoint in the humor department. She also offers up some of the most refreshing authenticity I’ve ever seen her reveal onscreen. Whether it’s the sweaty armpit stains that only grow bigger as she tries to give a class speech or the massive 1980’s-style shoulder pads she rocks at a frat party, Deanna doesn’t shy away from taking risks as she reclaims her life.
“There are people who, at a certain age, are still trying to define who they are for the first time, and I love that,” McCarthy shares in the press release. “I love stories of self-discovery, and if you can tell one and make people laugh with you along the way, that’s the best feeling.”
Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned veteran, I think you’ll love cheering for Dee Rock.
Life of the Party hits theaters nationwide May 11.