(Original post at The National Student)
Packing a serious emotional punch, ‘Family Sized Bucket of Popcorn and a Can of Wine’ is funny and tragic in equal measure.
Struggling to potty-train Larry, Bridgette asks Tutu if she can watch her son whilst she sees a movie with Eliza. Tutu’s depression has been exacerbated by her brief affair with Edmond, so Bridgette’s left holding the baby.
Her maternal instincts aren’t strong enough to stop Bridgette bailing on the park and taking Larry to meet Eliza instead. Pairing up Bridgette and Eliza doubles the quality of any SMILF scene, and hearing Eliza shout “reclaiming my time!” at nosy cinemagoers was the high-point of the episode.
After a stranger comments on Larry sleeping – taking your toddler to an incredibly violent horror movie is not top parenting, in fairness – Bridgette begins to wonder if she’s a bad mother. This fear is only compounded when she realises Larry wasn’t napping through the movie like she thought, and he hasn’t eaten breakfast or lunch.
Is Bridgette a bad mother? No, but she’s definitely careless. Her laissez faire attitude towards parking regulations gets her car towed, and her willingness to hitchhike with Melania Trump obsessives makes Eliza rightfully worried.
But if Bridgette is flawed, the precarity of her situation amplifies the risks of her behaviour. She can’t pay for a babysitter to look after her son or a taxi to the junkyard when her car gets towed.
Sure, Bridgette loses her son in a barbed wire filled landfill, but other mothers wouldn’t have to take their son there in the first place.
Like Bridgette, Tutu struggles because of things she can’t control. Her failed affair with Edmond has completely devastated her, so much so that she leaves her husband Joe sitting in the bath and walks out of her house in a detached haze.
Alongside her comic timing and ability to piss off Donald Trump, Rosie O’Donnell is an incredible dramatic actress.
Watching Tutu disassociate, particularly when she puts rocks in her pockets and walks into the river, is absolutely gutwrenching.
Cashing in her savings, Tutu goes on a spending spree and purchases new clothes, jewellery, and even a makeover. All the while, she tells unsuspecting employees about her ‘boyfriend’ Edmond, and how he’s told her to treat herself, seemingly unable to stop talking.
By the time Tutu’s blown all her money on lottery tickets, it’s hard not to be affected by the poignancy on display. But SMILF isn’t sad for the sake of it, so I was relieved that Tutu is given something of a reprieve when one of her lottery tickets wins her a riverboat cruise.
More importantly, Joe climbs all the way up the stairs to tell Tutu the news, as he wants to see the smile on her face when she hears the news. For Tutu, it’s a reminder that Joe does love her, and that Edmond is not the only way she can experience excitement and romance.
Likewise, Bridgette gets a much-needed win when Larry finally uses the toilet – albeit one in a festering junkyard. Helped out by a mother who works at the lot, Bridgette’s able to get her car out of the lot without paying a fine.
The culmination of Bridgette and Tutu’s plotlines judge tone perfectly. It would be frustrating to watch Bridgette fail again, and seeing Tutu destroy her savings without some hope for the future would be relentlessly depressing.
This week’s episode not only distils the essence of SMILF’s formula, it also exemplifies the emotional and comedic heights it can reach when it’s at its best. Pairing a nuanced exploration of mental illness with Bridgette’s hilarious misadventures of motherhood makes SMILF sweet and sad all at once.
SMILF airs on Sky Atlantic every Wednesday at 10.00pm.