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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moms' Night Out

Moms’ Night Out is a fun little family comedy that reminded me of my younger days when I was maneuvering marriage, a burgeoning career as a writer, and three little children born in three years. I remember the constantly messy family room, the scribbling on walls, and my hard-working husband trying his best to cope with my metamorphosis from career-driven wife to stay-at-home mom. Fortunately for me, I was able to hire a part-time nanny to help out, whereas the main character in this movie, Allyson (played by Sarah Drew from Grey’s Anatomy) does not.

As expected, chaos reigns in Allyson’s life from morning till night, and the only reprieve is a secret hiding place in her closet where oodles of candy, old black and white movies, and memories of what her legs used to look like in her favorite, sexy, strappy high heels provide temporary comfort. Her well-meaning husband, Sean (Sean Astin), tries to lend a hand but is more preoccupied with the newest video games to fill his free time. Her friends are saddled with their own domestic burdens, and her sister-in-law, Bridget (Abbie Cobb), only adds to the drama by unloading her only kid at short notice when the mood strikes. The pastor’s wife, Sondra (Patricia Heaton), offers encouragement, but advice isn’t what Allyson needs. While she adores her three children and is still in love with her husband, she comes to realize that being solely a wife and mother isn’t enough. Even though it is what she has always wanted in life, there is something missing in her heart.

During a boring, superficial book club meeting, Allyson and her best friend, Izzy (Andrea Logan White), hatch a plan to get dressed up, go to dinner, and have a fun night on the town—a mom’s night out. They invite Sondra and the date is set. The hubbies will take care of the kids while the ladies have a nice time, sans cell phones and other distractions that could spoil the evening. But before the night begins, disaster seems to be lurking at every turn. Sean invites his derelict friend to help babysit, Sondra’s teenage daughter has a delinquent moment, Bridget dumps off her kid for another evening of free babysitting, and the restaurant loses the ladies’ reservation (a funny scene). And then to make matters worse, Allyson’s minivan is stolen (or is it?).

** SPOILER ALERT **

From here, the movie turns into a bit of a silly caper flick. Mixed signals and miscommunications from Sean and the other husbands send Allyson and her friends on a wild goose chase to rescue the children from a supposed kidnapper. If it weren’t for Drew’s cute personality and funny antics, the second act would be a bit of a bore. Also, one can’t ignore the wonderful Trace Adkins, who helps the film along with his words of wisdom and witty humor that made me laugh. I also loved Heaton’s performance and admired how she used her comedic talents to reveal the flaws of a pastor’s wife without being offensive. These three performances are the glue that hold the film together till the finale.

The ending works nicely with Allyson coming to terms with the chaos in her life. Even though none of the children were truly in danger, the notion of losing her family so swiftly and unexpectantly brings thoughtful reflection. So what if the kitchen is a mess and the family room untidy? She has three healthy, thriving kids who are safe and happy and a wonderful, yet flawed husband her loves her and believes in her talents. As it turns out, she has everything she needs to be content and fulfilled, and the scribbled picture on the wall that her daughter drew is a reminder of this revelation. No longer a mark to be covered by a fresh coat of paint, the crude drawing of a joyous family has become a poetic masterpiece that requires a picture frame to preserve its message. It is a reminder to all of us parents to count our children and families as our greatest blessings from the Lord.

The final scene has Allyson spending a quiet moment in front of her computer before the house stirs with the clamoring of little people. With a hot cup of coffee at her side, she gazes out the window and smiles, her fingers poised over the keys as she prepares to share her thoughts in a blog post. There is hope in knowing she is not alone in her busy world, but that she is connected to a vast fellowship of creative stay-at-home moms (and dads, as the case may be) who long to be validated and recognized. Something the world should appreciate a little more.

Moms' Night Out is a nice little film that is entertaining and thought provoking, especially for us writers and work-at-home folk. Watch it and enjoy!

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