Tag Archives: melissa mccarthy

TIFF18: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

If you’re asking for forgiveness, Melissa, you’ve got it. Not that I really believe you have anything to be sorry for. The Happytime Murders was a misfire, but hardly your fault, and I admire any attempt to do something different.

With this movie, both Melissa McCarthy and the character she plays are trying something different. McCarthy is trying on a more dramatic role, and though Lee Israel has a teriffic wit, she’s got no slapstick about her at all. canyoueverforgiveme_0HEROMcCarthy only has her own skin to live in, face naked save for an inept smear of lipstick on only the most special of occasions (ie, when asking for money), hair constantly overdue for its next dye job, frumpy clothes in various shades of poop. But it’s Israel’s personality that poses the real problem. She’s abrasive and reclusive and just doesn’t really know how to exist among people, so she’s basically stopped trying. It’s just her and her cat – a daunting thought when it’s just her and a blank page. A once-celebrated writer of biographies, her agent nowadays can’t get so much as a $10 advance for a book on Fanny Brice that nobody wants.

Living in semi-squalor, Lee finds there’s good money selling literary mementos from great authors. Is it her fault that better content fetches higher prices? Isn’t it just good business sense to exploit her natural gift for writing and put it to use making money again?

Crime pays, for a while. And then the FBI gets curious about all the fraud and forgery and whatnot.

I love this script. McCarthy’s very first line earns a laugh out loud, and the script continues to reflect Lee’s caustic humour throughout. And McCarthy is just brilliant in the role, aggressively unpersonable, but also sympathetic. There’s a whole framework of supporting cast to admire too, particularly Jane Curtin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Marc Evan Jackson.

This isn’t just a film about forging letters, it’s about loneliness, and friendship, and purpose. It’s hard to say which Lee needs more – human connection or the sense that she is creatively fulfilled. Of course, when you’re crediting your best work to someone else, it’s plagiary of the heart and perhaps this is what hurts her most in the end. Lee Israel is not anyone’s idea of a hero, but her flaws are all-too-human, and it’s fascinating to slide down the rabbit hole with her.

Advertisements

The Happytime Murders

It’s not a total bag of shit. But it is a mixed bag, and I suppose we must allow that there is some shit in that mix.

I have a certain admiration, and perhaps a higher tolerance, for movies that take risks and push buttons. But a movie like this is going to test even my boundaries, flimsy as they are.

It’s set in a Los Angeles where humans and puppets live together, though not exactly peacefully. The puppets are treated like second-class citizens. And despite the fact that they’re called puppets, there’s no acknowledgement that traditionally that word has referred to an object animated by a human hand up the puppet’s bum. These puppets are people, and their plight is a very interesting allegory for the African American experience. Unfortunately, the film makers keep up that thread for maybe 10 minutes before they drop it in favour of shock-factor antics.

And I get it. Who can resist making puppets do rude things? I LOVE Avenue Q, but MV5BMjEyMjg5NDMwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQ4OTMwNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Avenue Q has a message and a point. It’s well-written and cleverly delivered. The Happytime Murders derails itself with its lewd antics, and if they get a laugh, they also take away from the plot, which is thin to begin with.

The gist: The Happytime Gang was a TV show, and now someone’s murdering its cast one by one. Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and her ex-partner, puppet Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) have to overcome their history and a massive grudge to work together to save their friends.

But then: porn! So much puppet porn. And not the tasteful or vanilla, either. Puppets are in to some crazy stuff. Not to judge. But there were buckets of jizz, and puppet pubes, depraved bunnies, thirsty cows, and literal horn dogs. The murders are so much more sedate in comparison, puddles of stuffing rather than blood. It’s amazing, though, that something that sets out to be so shocking can so quickly become rather dull. One Sharon Stone-inspired puppet pussy shot is brilliant; repeating it can only reveal your lack of material.

The saddest thing, though, is the movie’s complete waste of funny ladies Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Banks. The script asks very little of them. McCarthy is relegated to sidekick status, and though she seems at ease among puppet costars, she doesn’t really get a chance to shine. If anyone, it’s Maya Rudolph who kind of steals the show as Philips’ long-suffering secretary, Bubbles, although it must be said that the puppetry is top-notch, and between you and I, I think I would have 100% enjoyed a documentary about the making of this movie better than the actual movie.

The Happytimes Murders is frequently disgusting, and often crude, but it’s not always bad. It’s not meant for everyone, but there was one woman in my screening who laughed like a hyena for the entire 91 minutes, so it does have its audience, it just may not be you. Or me. It goes out of its way to be ludicrous. If director Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) could hide in the theatre and poke you with a big puppet penis, he probably would. The movie was clearly made with glee and abandon, even if it isn’t always received that way by audiences. Personally, I just think it confuses lewd and dirty with entertaining a little too often, and for me that joke wore thin. But I won’t pretend I didn’t laugh occasionally – it was just usually the kind of laugh where you hide your own eyes in shame and hope that Grandpa isn’t watching from Heaven.

 

Life of the Party

Dumb but funny.

First off, happy mother’s day mother fuckers. I spent the earlier part of Saturday celebrating with my mom and sisters (who are mothers themselves) over drinks, and probably food, but definitely drinks, in the heart of Ottawa’s vibrant Byward Market – and we just happened to do that beside Matt Smith, who was in town for Comic Con. Jason Momoa was also in town but I guess someone else had already offered to braid his hair like he was a sweet, sweet pony.

Anyway. Did it help that I had consumed drinks literally marketed as “fishbowls”? Likely yes. Did it help that some of the jokes made in the movie were oddly similar to the jokes we’d been making at my mom’s expense all day long? You bet. Maybe I was just in the mood to laugh, but laugh I did, and so did the rest of a pretty packed theatre.

In Life of the Party, Melissa McCarthy plays Deanna, a woman who’s just been dumped by her jackass husband after a quarter decade of devotion and submission. She decides MV5BMjQ5MjM2OTY1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ2MzI0NTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_to capitalize on her freedom by finishing the degree she gave up in favour of pregnancy over twenty years ago – the only problem is, she’s now a classmate of her daughter Maddie, because of course she’s elected to go to the exact same college. And I should say: it’s a problem for her daughter, who thinks it’s less than fun to have her booze and sex parade rained out by her uncool mom, but it’s a dream come true for Deanna who can’t wait to spend every waking moment with her daughter, aka, the only good thing to come out of her crummy marriage. Things are further complicated when Maddie’s friends all fall maddeningly in love with Deanna’s endearing “down to clown” antics.

Here’s the thing. This movie is not really a good movie, and it’s not really trying to be. It’s not treading new ground, it’s not smart, it’s not edgy. It’s a a benign, somewhat ridiculous premise that merely exists in order to set up some fairly ludicrous jokes. But it does, quite frequently, knock them down with some punch. The script is less objectionable than most in McCarthy’s recent past, and her performance has got more zing and zeal than all the bedazzled sweatshirts in the movie combined (believe me, it’s substantial).

Do I recommend this movie? It’s hard to go that far. The cornball factor is high. But the truth is, Melissa McCarthy seems uniquely qualified to deal in cheese, and really, who doesn’t love cheese?

The Life of David Gale

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is an anti-death-penalty activist and professor in Texas (in Austin, Texas, actually, which happens to be where we’re headed this week for SXSW, but that’s just a weird coincidence). He’s quite politically active until he winds up on death row himself, accused and convicted of the murder of another activist (Laura Linney), and sentenced to capital punishment.

The_Life_of_David_Gale,_2003Journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) is brought in to do one last interview with him before he’s put to death, but what he tells her isn’t a straight forward of guilt or innocence, but rather challenges her notions of justice and the legal system. But can she trust what she’s being told, or is David Gale just a smarter-than-average killer?

The thing about this movie…[this is me trying to decide whether I’m going to be polite about it]…is it’s not very good. I mean, it’s trying to be mysterious with a message. But if you can imagine that the message is a big salami, then imagine getting hit in the teeth with this salami, well, that’s The Life of David Gale.

Obviously it’s not for capital punishment. Or is that obvious? Or even true? Because I think tumblr_nijqy0nx9o1t0t91ao7_1280unintentionally, somewhere in the convoluted mess, it might actually manage to do the complete opposite. The Life of David Gale certainly traps some very worthy actors in a mess they can’t act their way out of. Kate Winslet is pretty Winsletty, although she does a fair bit of running just to show how urgent, how life-and-deathy this whole thing is, but Spacey: man. That guy did not get the good end of the salami here. He’s particularly bad acting opposite the kid playing his young son. It’s just uncomfortable to watch.

The film, Alan Parker’s last, wants to be thought-provoking but leaves neither room nor nuance for any thought at all. Although it lures you in with the promise of high concept, it’s more manipulative and frankly, more mundane than you’ll think possible. It ends up feeling fairly generic despite a stellar cast with 13 Oscar nominations between them. In the end, I was just hoping they’d be put out of their misery, which is probably the last message an anti-death-penalty movie wants to send. Then again, nothing about The Life of David Gale suggests that anyone put even that much thought into it.

Ghostbusters

When I was a little girl, I had a Ghostbusters siren on the right handlebar of my bike. On the left, I had a Slimer horn. I was dedicated to kickin ass and bustin ghosts and doing both from the luxurious banana seat on my Blue Angel bike. But the boys? The boys always kristen-wiig-ghostbusters-2-16132-1468265440-1_dblbigthought I should be Janine, the secretary. There’s nothing wrong with being a secretary, but there’s a reason nobody plays secretary. It’s just sitting at a desk! I wanted the glory, dammit, not the paperwork.

So a word to all you “Ghostbros” out there: there’s a reason why they’re “ruining your childhood” by making this movie. It’s because it’s little fucks like you who ruined mine.

And while we’re on the subject, I don’t buy this “It’s about our childhood” argument anyway. No, it’s not. You’re sexist, magotty little misogynists and you’re too afraid to say it to my face because you know I’ll kick your ass. This movie does not have the ability to time travel back to your snot-nosed lame-ass childhood where your only friend was your Stay-Puft marshmallow man toy and make a mockery of it. You’re the one making a mockery of it, and I’m guessing you have been for about 35 years. This bizarre hatred for a movie you’ve never seen is sexism, pure and simple. Hollywood has been rebooting movies for years. No one cried to their mommy when they rebooted Batman. ghostbusters-iiiNobody worried that their childhood Batman was ruined. No one panics when they reboot James Bond every 10 years. As long as you replace a man with another man, everything’s cool. Look, I’m sorry adulthood isn’t working out for you. I’m sorry girls never took an interest. But hating this movie won’t make you cool. And if you are truly, truly worried that seeing a brand new Ghostbusters movie will somehow sully your memory of the first, here’s a thought: just don’t watch it. I know! It’s revolutionary! Don’t go to the movie (I’m sure you exercised this right when they made a sequel back in 1989, one that failed to live up to its predecessor, or to its sucessor). You don’t have to judge it without having seen it. You don’t have to out yourself as a coward and a woman-hater. You just have to opt not to see it. I mean, it’s a stupid move because this movie’s great, but I’m guessing you and stupid moves are well-acquainted.

I won’t bother you with a synopsis because I’m guessing you all know what Ghostbusters do. It’s pretty much just a new team who happen to be women, who happen to know a lot about the occult, who happen to be sciency enough to do something about it. The script is hella-funny. The ghostbusting is pretty badass. And there’s just enough spook to get your pulse racing in a few places. Plus Paul Feig is just the right guy to get the job done. I knew we were in good hands when I saw how reverently he treated Spy – this guy is just a fan of movies. He’s respectful, but he knows how to poke fun in just the right places. And he writes exceptionally well for women.

The ladies are superbly well-cast. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are the most talented comediennes we have, but they play straight-ladies in this case. Ghostbusters is a coming out party for Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and let me tell you, they have arrived. Matt was surprised by how much he liked Jones in this but for me, it was all about maxresdefaultMcKinnon. Her character is bizarre and oblivious but McKinnon somehow humanizes her and pulls off some really cheeky, sweet, inspired moments under Feig’s loose direction (being an SNL alum probably helps quite a bit – he’s a big fan of letting his cast improvise). We stayed right to the end of the credits to squeeze every bit of juice out of this thing, and were rewarded. In fact, the movie itself is crowded with little gifts, among them cameos from plenty of original Ghostbusters. Who was your favourite, Matt?

M: I’m always excited to see Bill Murray but Dan Aykroyd’s part was the funniest even though I didn’t recognize him at first.

It was really great seeing love and support from the 1980s cast. This movie isn’t about replacing an old favorite, it’s about updating a classic and introducing it to a whole new generation. Homage is paid. Respect given. Isn’t that enough? Sean, you’re the right age and sex to be outraged by the audacity – how do you feel?

S: It did not ruin my childhood or ruin my memories of the first one. It was definitely more fun than the sequel. It was an enjoyable movie that I can’t understand anyone hating. Just a good old summer blockbuster.

The first one was a bit of magic. It was different and fun and exciting. The 2016 Ghostbusters isn’t a new idea, it isn’t different, but it’s just as fun and exciting. I can’t imagine what more you’d want.

The Boss

Melissa McCarthy was given the coveted Comedic Genius popcorn statue at the MTV movie awards this weekend, the first female to ever take home the honour. Of her historic status, she said “I am certainly, certainly not the first one to deserve it.”

gettyimages-520353144%20(1)McCarthy is, in fact, a tour de force, and “not afraid to be the butt of the joke” according to her speech (invaluable advice from her mother). She’s a frickin national treasure who keeps making very mediocre movies. What gives?

Paul Feig knows how to handle McCarthy – he directed her to breakout success in Bridesmaids, replicated it with The Heat, and wrote for her beautifully in Spy. But McCarthy keeps sneaking in movies between those triumphs, movies she ostensibly has a hand in writing herself, along with husband Ben Falcone, and those ones tend to crash and burn with big fat flames. That said, Melissa McCarthy has never had a flop. Of her worst-reviewed films, Tammy made $85M, and Identity Thief took in $135M. The Boss will likely nestle among them critically, but it was McCarthy who finally unseated Batman v Superman at the box office this weekend. Someone’s buying tickets.

I am buying tickets. I love her. I’ve loved her since her stint on Gilmore Girls boss(and am thrilled that she’ll return for the reboot). But falling in love with her on Gilmore Girls means I like her at her bubbly, beautiful best, not as the slob who falls down stairs. And I tend to think that Paul Feig, and most of the film going public, agree with me. The gags and the prat falls are beneath her. We’re tired of such juvenile physical comedy. She’s already proven that she’s better than it, and capable of so much more.

the_boss_melissa_mccarthy_afprelaxI can’t tell you that The Boss is a great movie, because it’s not. It’s totally uneven. But the thing about “uneven” is that it’s not universally bad either. In fact, it gave me the giggles (Her opening number? A delight. She had me at T-Pain). But then she’d get launched across the room again, her face splat against some unforgiving surface, and I’d be shaking my head again.

Melissa McCarthy is charming and lovable. She’s got great timing and she recruits some very talented co-stars (Kathy Bates being a particular favourite of mine). She’s not a buffoon, and any movie that attempts to make her into one isn’t going to cut it for me. I needed a little taste of McCarthy to get me through this godforsaken, unending winter (I know it’s spring, but try telling that to my home underneath 3 feet of snow) andghostbusters-1-800 I got it. The Boss is unsatisfying, leaving me doubly impatient for this summer’s Ghostbusters reboot – luckily, with Paul Feig at the helm. I have every confidence that she’s going to deliver exactly what I’m hoping for, and here’s why. The big, brash McCarthy character? It’s being played by Leslie Jones. Melissa taking on a straighter character, and I bet that will suit me just fine.

The Bronze

 

In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch) made her small Ohio town proud by bringing home the coveted Olympic Bronze Medal in women’s gymnastics. With her career cut short by a minor injury, Hope has been costing on that accomplishment ever since.

Rauch, who co-wrote this script with her husband, is best known for a show that I don’t watch. She insists though that Hope is a huge departure from her Big Bang Theory character and I’m willing to take her word for it. Unless CBS is willing to let her masturbate to footage of her glory days or say things like “absence makes the dick grow harder”, Chuck Lorre fans may be in for a side of the third most famous female BBT actress that they made not be ready for.

Hope is an obnoxious mess. Living with, mooching off of, and verbally abusing her sweet mailman dad (very well-played by Gary Cole), she makes a living off of stealing cash from his route. She also has a habit of going on a spoiled brat tirade of obscenities every time she hears something she doesn’t like, giving the sentenced-to-network-television actress a chance to do her best Melissa McCarthy (but somehow sounding a lot like Reese Witherspoon in Election).

Hope gets a second chance at life when her former coach dies and, for implausibly selfish reasons, she decides to take over coaching a promising sixteen year-old (Haley Lu Richardson) with dreams of Olympic gold. Richardson plays Maggie as naïve, hard-working, and loveable and Hope comes very close to ruining her. When Maggie beings to make the mistake of believing her own hype, The Bronze judges her way too harshly for the same attitude that it is so ready to forgive the 30 year-old Hope for.

The supporting cast of characters that Hope treats like shit- her dad, her pupil, and her sweet love interest (Tom Middleditch)- are all easy to like and make the film itself much more enjoyable to watch. The real problem is Rauch. As much fun as it must have been for her to unleash her inner Apatow, she’s more annoying than charmingly outspoken and her eventual redemption is too little-too late. And the ending, without giving too much away, is unforgiveable.