People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids is a great movie. Melissa McCarthy can be a great actor. Paul Feig’s The Heat was a slow, boring film that I actually paid for and then turned off (and if there’s money involved I’ll sit through Sex and the City 2 on repeat). Melissa McCarthy has become a sort of caricature of herself – a big, slovenly, overly loud character shuttled from one film to the next, always a little bit grosser than before. So, uh, I’m torn. I’m a film critic though, so I’m going to guess this film will suck.
Let’s all give a big round applause (yes, even the skinny-jeaned hipster kid in the back) for Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy for putting Fat + Unattractive Melissa to bed. She was tired, and everybody was sick of her, and it was just time to pull the covers up tight around her little neck and let her drift off to sleep-sleep time. And lucky for us, because Paul Feig is a good director (maybe even a good man) and he’s done a smart, funny, occasionally boring film about a repressed basic lady (Melissa McCarthy) who has to step up her game and become an ass-kicking spy. There’s a lot of plot here, a lot of characters, a lot of things that happen, but what you need to pull away from this review is that this is, handily, the best role Melissa McCarthy has ever been had. As if her and Paul Feig sat in a room one day, a little tipsy off Campari Sodas, and hatched this beautiful plan to kill off a character that was drowning McCarthy’s career. And how does one do that? They make fun of it, a whole fucking bunch, while giving McCarthy an honest-to-goodness role as a very normal woman with, and don’t get too excited here, a character arc that involves more than her shitting herself in a sink or tackling someone. That role is Susan Cooper, a desk-jockey for the CIA who’s thrust into the field when her charming (and borderline special needs) spy-guy (Jude Law with a suspicious American accent) is murdered. Instead of just making McCarthy a rote retread of her moronic, food-obsessed character from every other film, Feig makes her a competent (if not badass) woman who’s just too scared to get out there and do something spectacular. It takes the death of a loved one (like in the best of action movies) to force her out, but when she does, the results are fantastic. Along the way Susan Cooper (and McCarthy) is forced to take these spy-identities that recall McCarthy’s past Hollywood life – a cat lady, an Avon salesman, etc. – and it’s a joy to watch her buck against the type-casting. This a well cast film with Rose Byrne and Jason Statham both firing on all cylinders. Feig doesn’t hesitate to make this an actual spy film with a comedic bent, and some of the fight scenes (the knife v. pan one especially) are, well, pretty fucking awesome. Like all of these improv-heavy films it gets caught up in its own jokes sometimes and the narrative slows and you start to realize that maybe you don’t really care that much, but then McCarthy swoops on to the screen harassing a Swedish bodyguard about how much of a bitch he is and you realize, well, it doesn’t really matter how good the film is, this is McCarthy’s rebirth, and if she’s good, well, I’m in.
Seriously, cast Michelle Janning in everything. EVERYTHING.