Just as easily as a middle school friend can turn into an enemy, so can a wallflower turn into a suburban warrior in this tale of a woman seeking the best comeback to a bully.
Caroline Jacobs, a happily married photographer, usually keeps quiet, enduring insults, swallowing her pride, keeping out of the limelight. But when Mary Kate Dinali, smug and privileged Parent-Teacher Organization president, tries to bully shy Jessica Trent, Caroline finally stands up. To the shock of the entire PTO, Caroline expels an expletive, and soon her daughter, Polly, is defending her honor in the halls of Benjamin Banneker High School. Rather than face the principal and likely suspension, Caroline takes Polly on a road trip to face down her own demons from the past: specifically, Emily Kaplan, her childhood best friend who unceremoniously dumped Caroline 25 years ago in the middle of the school cafeteria, taking up with the far-more-cool Ellie Randolph. That public rejection ricocheted through Caroline’s life, coloring her understanding of her father’s leaving, her parents’ divorce, their descent into near poverty, and even her younger sister’s death. As the miles to Blackstone, Massachusetts pass under their wheels, Caroline tells Polly the story of her childhood. Polly slowly thaws, letting her mother’s heartache open the lines of communication. Where once punk Polly frostily shut out Caroline, she now begins to assist in the plot to confront Emily—taking things even further than Caroline had anticipated. Dicks (Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, 2012, etc.) well balances Caroline’s caution against Polly’s pluck, Caroline’s passive-aggressiveness against Polly’s outrage, creating a believable mother-daughter relationship. As each secret comes to light, he shapes their initially fraught ties into strong friendship.
Heartwarming and often darkly humorous, this road trip for vengeance fairly cries out for filming.