As a young girl, I had aspirations of being on stage. My Mom would always be on the lookout for opportunities for me to turn that dream into a reality. When she discovered Six Flags Over Mid-America was having auditions, she drove me out in the dead of winter and sat in the car for hours waiting. She wasn’t a helicopter Mom, but a woman who wanted her daughter’s wildest dreams to become reality. That is all any parent wants for their child. So, whenever one hears the term ‘stage mother,’ we think of Gypsy and her mother Rose. We think of a woman whose overbearing dreams are deferred like a raisin the sun. But iIn the trans and gay communities, mother is a term of endearment for that individual who nurtures, loves and cares for you in spite of yourself.
Maybelline Metcalf (Jacki Weaver) is living her best southern life in Texas being a choir director, dutiful wife when she gets the news that her beloved Rickey has overdosed. Upon arrival in San Francisco, the discovery is made her drag queen son owns a bar (Pandora’s Box), which was left to Maybeliine. Without much thought, she stays, revamps the club, the queens and even his best friend Sienna (Lucy Liu) while rediscovering her son, herself and a new life full of twists and turns along the way.
Lucy Liu, by the way, is portraying a character who has a strong sense of style, is a fiercely loyal friend, but doesn’t necessarily take care of herself. It’s something I’ve never seen her convey onscreen before. She convincingly does so with tact, grace, humanity and a dash of humor not making Sienna to brash or too corny.
Jacki Weaver has the uncanny ability to tackle every role she inhabits with verve, humanity and heart and how she attacks Maybelline isn’t any different. Aided greatly with biting, smart and quick witted dialogue provided by screenwriter/producer Brad Hennig. Weaver is endearing as a woman who much like Glinda the Good Witch from Oz, sprinkles her fairy dust in the most practical way possible to enhance the lives of Rickey’s friends while entering a new chapter of her own life.
Thom Fitzgerald’s direction is one of the reason’s this film doesn’t fall completely into the smaltzy lane it so easily could have thrived in. Yet, what he accomplishes is an incredibly complex tale of self acceptance and the how the acceptance of others often time colors our lives for a moment or a lifetime. Insight and reflection are everything – both of which exists within the colorful world of Pandora’s Box providing Stage Mother with almost unexpected and delightful cinematic expression of a world often stereotyped. Not to mention those fantabulous costume designs from James A. Worthen, which are just a cornucopia of sugar sweet yumminess. Much like HBO’s series, ‘We’re Here,’ we see that drag is an artful expression through individuals who at the end of the day just need a little love and understanding like the rest of us. Judge for yourself when Momentum Pictures streams it everywhere on August 21st.