MRR Review: "The Single Moms Club"

Photo Credit: E1 Films Canada

Rating: R
Length: 111 minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2014
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Genre: Comedy / Drama

The so-called Mommy Wars are a hot topic, carried out in Internet forums, magazine articles and lunch dates all over the country. Issues such as educational TV and wholesome snacks can polarize mothers, pitching parent against parent. In director Tyler Perry's thoughtful film, though, five mothers manage to let go of their differences and find the common ground that many women share. These five women are single mothers, accepting twice the burden of other moms for half the praise. Although it may hold a special appeal to single parents, "The Single Moms Club" is versatile enough to appeal to nearly any mother. The film deftly highlights the healing power of camaraderie over competition.

The members of the eponymous club come from very different walks of life. The striking Esperanza (Zulay Henao) is relying on alimony from her ex, Santos (Eddie Cibrian), but she is nervous that moving on with her romantic life will endanger the luxurious lifestyle she is currently enjoying. The journalist May (Nia Long) became a single mom due to her ex's drug addiction problem. However, she is not letting this prevent her from attempting to fulfill her dream of becoming a published author. No-nonsense waitress Lytia (Cocoa Brown) doles out tough love, advice and wisdom, all while working long hours to support her family by herself. Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is an ambitious and driven literary agent who worries that her single mom status could hold her back at her workplace. Hillary (Amy Smart) is still stinging from an unwanted and painful divorce that has left her in charge of three young kids.

Initially, the only connection the five women have is the fact that their kids are enrolled at the same school. After the kids cause trouble, May, Esperanza, Lytia, Jan and Hillary start working on a school project together. It does not take long for this disciplinary action to reveal itself as a blessing in disguise. The moms recognize each other as kindred spirits as they sip wine, baby sit each other's kids and offer integral moral support.

It is a good thing that the five women have each other because their romantic lives and their relationships with their kids are not always so supportive. All five women are interested in dating, yet they are torn about romantic complications. For instance, lonely Hillary has a tentative flirtation with her hunky neighbor (Ryan Eggold), and Lytia enjoys a heated affair with the well-meaning and muscular Branson (Terry Crews).

The success of "The Single Moms Club" comes from its ensemble cast. Fortunately for Perry, his five leading ladies are talented and personable. Alone, each actress is strong enough to be a star. Together, they generously make room for each other, playing off each other's strengths and providing a realistic sense of sisterhood and friendship. No one character dominates the film, allowing all five separate stories room to breathe. Audience members will most likely relate to different aspects of each story, and Perry is wise to let the many threads flourish equally. McLendon-Covey, Long, Henao, Brown and Smart bring distinctive qualities to the screen, from Lytia's unapologetic brashness to Jan's blend of vulnerability and toughness.

Perry is a prolific filmmaker, and his interests and topics are far-ranging. However, "The Single Moms Club" will not go down in history as one of Perry's most successful or distinctive films. The dramatic comedy plays it safe in many ways, sticking to a heart-warming exploration of an issue to which plenty of contemporary mothers can relate. The story does falter in some places, and the plot sometimes glosses over the difficulties that contemporary single moms face on the dating scene, in the workplace and at home. The main arch of the story involves each of the five women successfully finding a romantic relationship, which does not fully address the ongoing struggles of single moms. This kind of Hollywood fairytale ending also does not totally fit the empowering message of "The Single Moms Club." With five different protagonists, the potential for five different endings could have brought a lot more versatility and subtlety to the plot.

Ultimately, "The Single Moms Club" follows a romantic comedy pattern, with elements of drama adding some gravity. While not a totally realistic social commentary, the film is a light-hearted and entertaining option for audiences who are tired of romantic comedies focusing on single, childless protagonists. "The Single Moms Club" celebrates the life-affirming power of female solidarity. It also acknowledges the importance of mothers setting aside their differences to empower and encourage one another, imparting a heartfelt message. Many film-goers will most likely want to raise a toast of sparkling wine right along with the five single moms onscreen.