After moving to the Portland area for her husband’s work, Joy finds herself looking for new friends in the local mom crowd. Having found her way to a big party, she meets a few of the “cool” moms who will first support her and then test her limits. Written by Sarah Hehman and Christi Sperry and directed by Paul Kampf build an adult version of the teenage-clique film which works. The characters they build feel like grown-up versions of people most of us encountered in high school: the good girls that are slightly bookworm-y, the rich girls from silver-spoon backgrounds, the cool and dangerous girls, etc.
The film shows that no matter how much growing or maturing one does, some things never change. It also shows how one good mom can be led astray by the cool moms who are the first to truly take her in and show her attention. The characters in most cases feel realistic with the lead of Joy feeling like an authentic over-stressed mom many of us have met in our lives. She’s trying to fit in, make new friends, while trying to keep normalcy for her children as the family goes through great changes. The way Joy is portrayed is probably the best character of the film with a multi-faceted personality. She’s a good representation of the frazzled housewife trying her best to please everyone while losing herself in the process.
In the lead part of Joy, Lauren Bowles shows all the facets of moving to a new city with your family while having to keep organized and trying to fit in as she gets very little support. Her character’s plight and emotions come through very well and she gives a varied performance emotionally. Playing the lead “cool mom” Nikki, Victoria Smurfit plays it cool and friendly but with something always hidden behind her big bright white smile. Her performance shows a glee for playing complex, not exactly good characters. She shows talent for playing bad and enjoyment in it which is infectious. Playing one of the other “cool moms” and shining is Suleka Mathew as Tory who also shows a glee at playing a bad girl in mom clothes.
The film’s cinematography makes the scenes inviting, creating an atmosphere that makes it easy to watch. The film’s setting in the Portland area and in Las Vegas for a bit is well established with good shots that almost feel like post cards and an almost tourism ad feel. Once the establishing shots are done, the film looks good and invites the watcher in.
The music by Chris Cash works on some of the scenes while it feels out of place on some of the others. The music has a bit of a 90s sitcom feel to it which in and of itself is not entirely bad but it doesn’t really go with the film and its story, which is unfortunate as a more classical score or maybe even a soundtrack of “mom” hits would have lent itself better to the story.
Best Fake Friends (formally known as Homecoming) is a light dark comedy with a subject that will hit close to home for many who have moved and tried to keep things together while adapting to their new surroundings. The mid-life crisis theme feels like a coming-of-age story almost with a similar situation and people as in many films about a displaced teen trying to fit in. The film will not be for everyone, but as a former housewife, this reviewer can say that many scenes hit close to home.