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Melissa McCarthy talks 'Life of the Party', social labelling, life changes, and mother-daughter relationships.


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Life of the Party is Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone’s latest project, in which McCarthy stars as Deanna, a stay-at-home mother who, when her husband suddenly asks for a divorce, has her life turned upside down. She to turn this bombshell into a fresh start, deciding to return to college and enrol in the same class and college as her teenage daughter.

It’s a fun, hilarious and uplifting story about starting over and embracing life on your own terms. The National Student spoke to Melissa McCarthy about her new film.

“Ben [Falcone] really had the idea for the story. My mum was actually staying with us, and he started thinking about what she was like at my age, and what we thought of our parents. He grew up in a college town, so campus life has always been near and dear to him, and the story really came to him then.”

McCarthy has always starred in films and television shows featuring great female cast ensembles, from Gilmore Girls, to Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters. Life of the Party is no exception, casting a host of female talents such as Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs, and Molly Gordon.

She spoke fondly of her co-stars, the majority of whom are young and making their mark on the industry. “We were so lucky because it was such an amazing group of young women and actresses. I feel like they’re much more together and impressive than I was at that age! They’re professional, they’re kind, they’re incredibly aware of the world.

“They were just such a delight and it was really… I know it might sound funny, but I found it really inspiring. You just always hear such terrible things about young people, from people that are really negative, and this group of people were just engaged, and smart, and so funny, and we just had such a good time.

“It really was amazing, and the whole crew felt the same way. If some of the actresses weren’t in a certain day, everybody was kind of bummed, and sometimes they’d come to set even if they weren’t working, and I’ve never had that happen before. So that was really amazing.”

One of the shining features of the film is the relationship between McCarthy’s character and her daughter, played by Molly Gordon. “It was really important to me to portray a healthy mother-daughter relationship. I said that ‘I’m so close with my mum, I know so many people that have such great relationships with their mums’, and it’s always troubled me… I don’t mind sometimes! But I feel like, why do you always see the daughter that hates the mother, and the mother who is just such a nag?

“And I thought, that’s not the relationship I know with my mum, and it’s certainly not how I feel about my daughters! I just think, ‘I hope they’ll like me when they get older!’ and you never know, but ‘God I hope that I don’t drive them crazy!’.

“And it was really important to show that, and I think Ben and I really wanted to show that there’s another side, that bringing women together doesn’t mean that there’s fighting, and jealousy, and all these crazy things. I just thought that, I know all these groups of amazing women, and we support each other and they’re so kind, so why don’t we see that more? And there’s such a joy to this movie, and to everybody that was in it, that we really wanted to put that out into the world and hopefully do it in a funny way, and I think we did it? I certainly loved everybody in it.”

Another deeply refreshing aspect of Life of the Party is that Deanna’s return to college and attempt to restart her life aren’t patronised as a ‘midlife crisis’. “That was really important to Ben and I,” McCarthy agrees. “We thought the point of this is not to show that she’s crazy, or that she’s a nutjob for going back to school, but rather we thought: ‘How exciting that it’s never too late?’ It’s never too late for anybody to change their career, to change their life, to make themselves happier, and I think that’s such an exciting concept.

“And it wasn’t that Deanna was having a breakdown, I think it’s finally that her world got shaken up. She uses these labels of mum and wife to identify herself, and I think when her world got shook up it was kind of ‘Well, who am I? When all the labels go away, I’ve forgotten who I am.’

“And I wanted to reinforce that you can be a good mum and a good wife, and there should still be room for you to remember who you are. I mean it’s a balancing act, it’s not easy, but I feel like a lot of the times you’re supposed to pick, and I don’t subscribe to that. I think you can do all of those things; I’m a mum, I’m a wife, and I work, and I love my job!”

This issue of labels is changing, thanks in part to the recent proliferation of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. “I think is really exciting is that people are finally speaking up, and that people are listening and supporting it. I think when you change the climate, and people are speaking to each other, you start to actually change the world. I think that’s really exciting.”

And for those who will be starting college or university this autumn, or for those who are returning, Melissa McCarthy has some advice for you! “I would say enjoy it! I wasn’t ready for it, and I wish I could have just taken a breath. I wish I would have known to ask for help when I needed, so if you don’t feel like you’re getting the help you need, just ask. It’ll make the experience easier and more enjoyable.”

Life of the Party is out in cinemas Thursday 10th May, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 

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