Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Gary Cole, Sandra Oh, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Ben Falcone
Director: Ben Falcone
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars
Melissa McCarthy has had one of the swiftest and oddest rises to movie stardom in recent years. After years of solid but under-the-radar television work in shows like Gilmore Girls, Samantha Who, and Mike and Molly, she became the breakout star of the monster hit movie Bridesmaids. In the years since, she’s been nominated for an Oscar, won an Emmy, and starred in two more major hits (Identity Thief and The Heat). Much has been made about her weight and the age at which she became a breakout star, but the reality is that this is an impressive run for any actor, regardless of gender or weight, and McCarthy is now positioned in Hollywood as one of the biggest stars in its firmament. She’s as bankable as DiCaprio, as well-liked as Bullock, and as talented as Hanks. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
(Spoilers Ahead) She’s also one of the few actors in Hollywood that basically guarantees I get out and see her movie, so regardless of the reviews (and oh how treacherous they have been!), I was there opening night of Tammy, ready with one of my friends to enjoy the delightful McCarthy. And I have to say that I left somewhat satisfied. I get where the reviewers were coming from, but I also feel like they missed a few of the points of the film itself.
The film tells the tale of Tammy (McCarthy), a woman somewhere in her thirties who is having a no good, very bad day. She totals her car when a deer hits her, gets fired from her job as a result, and then comes home early to find that her husband (Faxon) has been having an affair with the neighbor (Collette). As a result of all of this, she decides to head out on the open road, but needs money and a car, which means that her grandmother, Pearl, (Sarandon) needs to tag along.
On the road, of course, we find that Tammy has dreams of a better life for herself, but little follow-through, and oftentimes acts impetuously and without regard for other people. Pearl seems somewhat more level-headed but imbibes to an unhealthy degree, causing her to occasionally say or do things that seem out of character.
Throughout the film we meet a bevy of interesting characters, particularly of note being Kathy Bates as Pearl’s lesbian cousin Lenore and her partner Suzanne (Oh). The film had started meandering in multiple directions by the Lenore point in the movie, so Bates and her steady, calming presence was most welcome and probably makes her the MVP of the supporting cast, though the entire film is really just about McCarthy.
Honestly, that’s the main and probably only reason to see the movie, because the actual script and plot are a mess (McCarthy and her husband wrote the script, and while I see where they were going, this needed some heavy editing and rewriting). For starters, there’s no way of knowing what sort of movie we’re supposed to be telling. McCarthy’s Tammy is occasionally Megan from Bridesmaids, and then on a dime turns into Shannon from The Heat, and there even appears to be a bit of Dawn in Identity Thief in there. It’s all a conglomerate of past McCarthy characters, which would be fine (actors repeat performances all the time and oftentimes with great success-just ask Cary Grant), but there’s too little consistency across Tammy. Is she down-on-her-luck or is she just a loser who never tried? The film doesn’t seem to know, and tries to make her both.
The same can be said for the love story. I like that McCarthy wanted a talented cast surrounding her, and gave her old friend Nat Faxon a small role as her husband (they were in The Groundlings together), but it’d be easier for us to feel for her if we’d had at least one scene of the two of them together. We don’t know whether to feel hatred or pity for the character (Tammy isn’t an easy character to live with, and she did cheat on him), and so the main obstacle to her later romance with a shy local man named Bobby (Duplass) is kind of a “huh.” This is a pity because McCarthy was born to play romantic comedy leads-that ability to get the audience to root for you and have both a tough exterior and a soft side-she has that in a way no actress has had onscreen since the Holy Trinity of Roberts/Bullock/Ryan in the 90’s. This, quite frankly, and not gross-out comedy, should be her genre of choice.
The last really odd thing about this movie is the ages of the cast members. I get that actors frequently play characters not quite their age, and I will easily buy McCarthy as 35 (she looks younger than she actually is to begin with), but Allison Janney and especially Susan Sarandon seem WAY too young to be playing her mother and grandmother, respectively. Would it have been so bad to cast someone like Cloris Leachman or Betty White or an actor who could have believably passed for her grandmother in the role of Pearl? It’s such an odd decision on the part of the cast, and one that frequently took you out of the movie.
All that being said, McCarthy herself is intensely watchable in this movie, like she always is. She can sell the physical aspects of the comedy (the holdup scene is wildly funny, and most of her one-liners land with aplomb), and also has the actor’s sensitivity to never abandon the audience-we always want what’s best for Tammy, even when she does particularly stupid things. And the romantic comedy angle, though a bit tagged on: I’m not kidding here; someone cast this woman in the next big Rom-Com.
Those were my thoughts on the uneven but occasionally quite watchable Tammy. What are yours? Do you also feel that McCarthy would be best-suited for romantic comedies? What are your thoughts on the bizarre age gaps? And should Kathy Bates be in every film? Share in the comments!