Career criminals seem to either spark scorn or adulation in America, though the two are rarely mutually exclusive. We love the story of the outlaw bucking against the hands they are dealt and making their mark on their environment in every which way they know how, especially if that environment is suppressive and toxic. Enter the world of Drew Denny’s Momster, where this modern myth is given a uniquely hyper-stylized makeover, albeit with a few hiccups.
After Angel (Brianna Hildebrand) gets dumped at Dallas’ (John Ennis) rollerskating go-go bar by her bank robbing mother (Amanda Plummer), she has bided her time for years waiting on her return. Meanwhile, as she is forced to peddle drugs in the bar according to the whims of her sleazy employer and caretaker, she’s given sickly assurances that if her mom actually does return, then Angel would only be able to go if her Momster pays a hefty ransom. As she spends her birthday in her usual routine with the bar’s less-than-stellar clientele, fantasizing about her and her mom becoming the world’s greatest bank-robbing pair, she’s forced into a surprising conundrum when she attempts to stand up for a coworker.
“…Angel would only be able to go if her Momster pays a hefty ransom.”
According to Denny’s personal website, Momster is less a short film and more of a proof-of-concept pitch, and it definitely impresses as such. There is a severe lack of contextual development for the audiences to particularly care about any of the minor characters within the plot, but that doesn’t mean that those characters do not feel authentic. As a matter of fact, it is surprising how realistic the majority of the performances are, given the quirky (yet absolutely entertaining and engrossing) stylization of the cinematography, screenplay, and character blocking. It almost feels as if this were a dream experienced by someone within the Natural Born Killers universe, though with far less visual chaos and a stronger penchant for Tarantino-esque genre throwbacks.
While Hildebrand owns the look of her role, her performance leaves a few things to be desired – it’s often stilted, except for a few key moments, which contrasts awkwardly with the rest of the cast. Plummer is (as always) a delight, and if this film evolves into a feature, I would be thoroughly interested in how she would expand on the role. It just feels as if there is a considerable amount of untouched potential lurking under the surface, which is also true of Ryan Simpkins’ character Rose, who is woefully underexplored.
While shakey on a few counts, Momster possesses a solid enough foundation by which we should continue to explore this unique (and somehow charming) universe and characters.
Momster (2019) Directed by Drew Denny. Written by Drew Denny. Starring Brianna Hildebrand, John Ennis, Amanda Plummer, Ryan Simpkins, Josh Fadem.
6 out of 10