First, her life was turned upside down, then she took control of her life and became the Life of the Party!
Dumped. Divorced. Desperate. So many of us can identify with the plight of Deanna, heroine of the new comedy Life of the Party, played by Melissa McCarthy. When we first meet “Dee Dee”, she and her less-than-charming husband, Dan, are dropping their daughter, Maddie, off for her senior year of college. Within minutes of the drop-off, Dee Dee’s life takes off on an emotional roller coaster as her husband announces he’s in love with another woman and wants a divorce!
Dee Dee had done as so many other wives and mothers have by sacrificing the senior year of her own college career to marry, start a family, and devote herself to her home and family. While raising her daughter was a great joy, she suddenly realizes how much of herself had been left behind in the process, and how unloved and unappreciated she was by the man she did it all for.
In Dan’s words, he was “upgrading his life and his wife” by running after snotty real estate agent, Marcie. Clearly, Dan is suffering the effects of a raging midlife crisis as he gets a ridiculous earring, makes a fool of himself in front of members of the former couple’s social circle, and causes a rift with his daughter over his hurtful actions.
The beauty of this movie, which is full of laughable moments and scenes any of us would expect from a college campus, is that it takes us along to witness the transformation of Dee Dee through her divorce. She embarks on the journey as a woman crushed, frightened, and lamenting the fact that she never finished school. Before long, we have the privilege of seeing her step out of her suburban comfort zone to complete unfinished business and earn her long ago abandoned degree!
What’s even more amazing than seeing a discarded woman rediscover her lost dreams and a meaningful goal, is watching her come out of her shell, gaining confidence, drawing (and returning) strength from her inter-generational posse of pals, and recognizing her true value again!
Although it’s unrealistic to imagine a middle-aged mom of a co-ed moving into the dorms, hooking up with a hot young stud half her age, and joining a sorority, we can’t help but giggle and cheer as we see her ditch the fugly mom sweaters, slay the mean girls in an epic 80’sdance-off, and sweat her way through her big final oral exam!
The audience collectively gasped, then burst out laughing during a restaurant run-in with the ex and his side piece that was straight out of a divorced mom’s fantasies! No spoilers here, but who wouldn’t want Christine (Maya Rudolph) in the audience as a BFF when all the karma hits the fan? Dan’s tasteless “upgraded life, upgraded wife” philosophy spawned part two of all our secret daydreams when Dee Dee and her college pals get a shot at trashing Dan and Marcie’s wedding reception. It was sweeter than wedding cake!
Divorce veterans are likely to get the biggest kick out of this film, because, who else can appreciate a mediation session from hell or the sweet satisfaction of watching a cheating spouse squirm in the bed they’ve made as much?
The greatest joy from watching Dee Dee’s progress through her divorce healing process is seeing her overcome her own insecurities and the adversity in her path, and achieve her goal of earning her diploma! She was a stronger woman for everything she’d been through, and what an example she set for her daughter and her new squad of college friends! If Deanna can do it, can’t we all?
So, grab some of your girlfriends, especially the ones who get the special challenges of being a divorced mom, and see if it doesn’t just make some of your divorce fantasies come true!
*Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema