When the invitation came to “party like a mother” with a group of women who’ve had enough of the bento-box-lunch lifestyle and PTA perfection in Bad Moms — the latest from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (writers of The Hangover) – we knew this was one we couldn’t pass up. So on a day in New Orleans last February, we set out to learn who these self-proclaimed “bad moms” are and why they’re taking a mini vacay from being moms in the first place.

Amy (Mila Kunis)

Togetherness is usually Amy’s M.O. She’s the kind of mother who constantly overextends herself to make sure her kids’ homework is done, the dog’s been groomed, everyone’s at soccer practice on time, and she’s volunteered for the school’s bake sale. For cowriter-director team Lucas and Moore, this movie is a pseudo love letter to their wives, who inspired the character.

“We both have kids and spent a lot of time at home writing and watching how hard it is for our wives to be Mom, and everything they put up with, and the pressures they put on themselves,” Moore said of the story’s origins. “They work so hard. They hold themselves to a really high standard. And part of the movie is in some ways saying that standard is ridiculous. Kids leave really quickly and try to enjoy your time with them, because if their shoes and socks don’t match one day that’s OK.”

That same mentality eventually sets in for Amy when one day her life becomes a veritable Murphy’s Law of madness. The PTA “queen bee” Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and fellow mean mom Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith) push her last button by demanding she commit time she simply doesn’t have. She stands up to them in front of the whole school with a hard “NO!”, throws in the towel and decides to let all the spinning plates fall while she goes off to have some fun.

Kunis’ real-life experience with motherhood is a little more evenly spread than Amy’s — “I’m very lucky; I do have an amazing husband and… my parents live in the same town as I do,” she says, but she has her own choice of four-letter words when she encounters her first judge-y mom clique that tries to tell her how to be a mother. And she’s definitely not afraid to let her guard down and consult a friend if and when things get out of control.

“I think people like to know they are not alone,” she said. “Nowadays, if s**t’s going wrong I call my best friend, I’m like ‘I don’t know, there’s this color coming out of her nose, and I’m pretty sure she’s dying.’ It’s OK to do that. I don’t know if it was necessarily OK before, so I think this movie kind of brings light to that.”

Kiki (Kristen Bell)

Kristen Bell, too, says she has a much more collaborative home life than her screen counterpart. “My character is the stay-at-home mom who does nothing but care for other people… the little ones and her husband and always puts her last,” she said. “I think not prioritizing yourself is very, very dangerous. She’s also been under the thumb of her husband for quite some time and hasn’t really had the moxie to tell him to put a sock in it for a hot second. And that she’s capable.”

She’s present for the breakthrough moment when Amy stands up to the know-it-all mom squad, and the two quickly join forces.

“When she meets Amy and Carla,” Bell said, “she’s at her wits’ end and almost going insane—legitimately insane. She can’t stop smiling and isn’t really making much sense because she’s so sleep deprived and these girls kind of fill her up with the courage to take charge of her own life again.”

Although Bell doesn’t have the same hang-ups, she and her husband, Dax Shepard, “take mini-meditative breaks” and “keep an eye on each other,” she said. She did bring a piece of her personal life into the character’s costume: a necklace that her daughter made for her before filming. “I wear it a lot, and I wore it into a fitting, and it just seemed perfect with every outfit, so we made a bunch more,” she said.

She also insists the movie’s message will resonate with moms of all kinds. “This movie blankets the whole topic of motherhood… the message is [that] there are endless ways to do it and however your gut is telling you to do it, that’s what’s right. It’s a unifying message that we all feel ‘less than.’ We all feel frazzled. We all feel overworked. And terrified we’re messing up our humans. But that’s the beauty of this entire movie is it’s unifying. It’s like all moms in solidarity.”

Carla (Kathryn Hahn)

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Unlike the other two in the trio, Carla’s hardly known for her prize pies or balanced breakfasts, and Kathryn Hahn (who might not ordinarily go for her character’s Western-style leather jacket and side ponytail, but still) can identify with that type of mom pressure.

“There are some days that you think that if they are still breathing at the end of the day, you’ve done OK,” she says of parenting her own little ones. “It’s the most out-of-control feeling you can possibly have.”

Her character, whom we got to watch on set guzzling a gallon of milk with vodka in the cereal aisle of a grocery store the ladies ransack, has long rejected the hell that comes with trying to keep the seams from splitting. She becomes the ringleader as they embrace a child-free moment and for Hahn, art definitely imitates life… well, minus the impromptu White Russians at the supermarket.

Says producer Suzanne Todd, "Kathryn wasn’t really investing in trying to be a great mom. You know, you see her in the beginning of the movie pull up in front of the school and her kid kind of rolls out of the car and she chucks a fast food bag at him, and is like 'There’s your lunch, have a great day.' Whereas Amy is trying to do the bento box with the perfectly sliced thing and the secret note and everything that your kids really wish they would have in their lunch every day. She’s a bad influence on them in a good way. And obviously, they go have a good time."

“I would always feel like I had toothpaste drooling down me. I couldn’t believe the moms that would show up with not only their hair and makeup perfect, but the children like so with their hair brushed with a clip in it that the kid doesn’t rip out… but you find your tribe and you stick with them.”

Bad Moms is in theaters July 29.