Melissa McCarthy plays Tammy, an unhappy woman in the middle of the worst day ever when we meet her. On her way to her crappy fast food job, she hits a deer and nearly totals her car. Late to work and bloodied from her accident, her manager fires her on the spot aaaaaand she doesn’t take it well. She makes less than a gracious exit; “burning bridges” comes to mind. She heads home only to find her husband engaged in some very bad behaviour. So naturally she decides to run away with grandmother (Susan Sarandon).
This movie is fun, and sometimes funny, but it’s never as funny as you’d hope. After all this is Melissa McCarthy. Her star shines pretty bright. She and her husband Ben Falcone wrote the script; she stars, he directs. But if they were given carte blanche, they wasted it. For two crazy funny people, they’ve hatched a pretty mediocre comedy here. McCarthy does her loudmouth thing. Sarandon is just not believable as an old granny despite the wig and bifocals meant to blunt her sensuality. It’s still Susan Sarandon, who is effing hot. The two make for an odd pair, and sometimes the relationship hits the right notes but other times it just feels sour. Kathy Bates almost steals the show as the kind of cousin who’s good to have around in a pinch.
I saw this movie and laughed. Lots of people must have – the critics didn’t care for it, but audiences turned it into a 100 million dollar hit. But I’m still not happy about it. First, because I think McCarthy is very smart and this kind of comedy demeans her. Second, because we keep seeing her do this “schtick” over and over: obnoxious fat girl with a dirty mouth. And the thing is, this is not the Melissa McCarthy I know and love. Lots of people came to know and appreciate her with the movie Bridesmaids, where she played another belching, awkward bull. But I know McCarthy from her Gilmore Girls days where she played an adorable chef and businesswoman named Sookie. She was sweet and charming and weird and FUNNY. Funny without it being crass, or referencing her weight, which, to the best of my knowledge, was a non-issue on the show. She was just a funny woman who looked like a lot of women do.
And now Hollywood has turned her into the female Chris Farley. She isn’t just a comic who happens to be fat, she’s a fat comedian. Her characters are fat, the kind of fat that is “gross” and should be laughed at. Do it once and it might be inspired, but make a career out of it and it starts to feel like exploitation. America loves to laugh at fat people. And fat women? Laughing at them is all they’re good for. And it looks like McCarthy is afraid of just that – that if she tried to just be Sandra Bullock’s sweet best friend, audiences wouldn’t buy it. How many times have you seen a fat woman in a movie who is not meant as the comic relief?
Often referred to as “America’s plus-size sweetheart,” Melissa McCarthy responds “It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction.” And the thing is, I feel confident that she’s worth so much salt than she’s showing. We saw a tiny glimpse of her playing straight in St Vincent but that’s exactly the problem: unless they’re prepared to be raunchy cannon balls, a fat woman must be relegated to fat best friend, the one who never has a boyfriend of her own. A sad sack, unless she’s black, and then she’s sassy. But still alone and negligible.
(add your name in the comments if you agree!)