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Now that she's done literally smacking some sense into people and taking down drug cartels, Melissa McCarthy is ready to rob a fast food restaurant. At least, her character Tammy is, in the teaser trailer for her new film of the same name. Co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, and directed by the latter, Tammy follows a woman who is fired from her job at a fast food joint, and comes home to find her husband has been having an affair. In an attempt to escape from her problems, she borrows a car from her hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who wants in on the adventure. The film also stars Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, Allison Janney, Dan Akyroyd, and Nat Faxon.
From what is revealed in the trailer, it seems like Tammy will be reminiscent of McCarthy's last odd-couple road trip movie Identity Thief, which doesn't necessarily bode well for the rest of the film. Despite becoming a major force in comedy with her performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy's filmography since has been somewhat spotty. Yes, there was the excellent The Heat last summer, but before that there was Identity Thief, The Hangover III, and her CBS comedy Mike & Molly, none of which have been particularly well-received. Much of that lackluster reception is likely due to the fact that all of those projects rely on forcing McCarthy into one-note characters that only utilize the same schtick for comedy.
Part of what made McCarthy's character in Bridesmaids so hilarious was that she had so many different layers; yes, she was unapologetically brash and obnoxious, but she was also smart, kind, and caring, as well as the kind of person who couldn't walk away from a puppy. McCarthy played all of those different elements perfectly, knew how to give her softer moments some edge, and allowed Megan to be riotously funny without losing any of that depth. Similarly, Mullins, her character in The Heat had more to her than met the eye, and her issues with her family, her desire to protect her brother, and her knowledge of the streets she serves all helped to create a character that felt three-dimensional, and didn't rely on one joke, repeated over and over.
Which was exactly the problem with Identity Thief. The comedy in the film came primarily from watching McCarthy fall down, break things, or put Jason Bateman's character into situations where he felt uncomfortable, so when the plot attempted to shoehorn in a backstory to explain why Diana behaved in such a way, it felt sloppy. There wasn't enough depth for the character to support such a backstory, because the audience had just spent the last hour and a half watching a film based on a one joke premise. And yes, Mike & Molly, which started out a comedy about two people finding love despite their personal obstacles, has re-booted its premise in order to capitalize on what has become McCarthy's schtick - loud, obnoxious and inappropriate - even though it meant changing who the character of Molly is entirely.
Of course, it makes sense that movies and television would want to capitalize on that persona. Clearly, audiences who enjoyed Bridesmaids enjoyed watching McCarthy drink, curse, and hit on people, and so they would be likely to watch her do it again, in a different setting. However, if the focus is only on the schtick, the project as a whole suffers, and too many bad films in too short a period of time could make audiences sick of watchng McCarthy just do the same thing - and that could be already happening, if the teaser for Tammy is any indication of what the whole film is like.
Warner Bros. Entertainment
The teaser is funny, there's no doubt about that. McCarthy is charismatic and hilarious in every role that she plays, and even managed to inject some life into the otherwise bland Identity Thief. But, in the end, there's only so much of McCarthy falling down that we can watch before the joke starts to feel a little tired. If there's no substance to support the joke, then the film will wear out its welcome relatively quickly, which will make audiences less inclined to check out any of McCarthy's projects that come afterwards. Look at Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell: both were well-loved comedians at the top of their game who had a hard time getting out of the roles they had become pigeonholed into. As the quality of their work declined, so did the public's opinion of them.
It would be a shame to see the same fate befall McCarthy, who has proven herself to be not only a talented comedienne, but also an actress capable of tackling a variety of roles. She first rose to fame as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, a character who was sweet and somewhat reserved, but also someone that McCarthy was able to inject some eccentricity and humor into. She was extremely funny in the role, but ever since Bridesmaids certified her as a star, her characters have been less like Sookie - realistic, layered and unreliant on schtick - and more like Diana and the new Molly.
Since Tammy was written by McCarthy and Falcone, we're hoping that there's enough depth in the film itself to keep Tammy from becoming another caricature. We'd love to see McCarthy have another hit film under her belt, and we'd also love to see her get the chance to play another three-dimensional role, especially because the schtick is starting to get old. The clip from Tammy is funny on its own, but could we all really sit through two hours of that one joke? If Tammy manages to aoid that one-joke preimse and becomes a hit, both critically and commercially, McCarthy will be able to avoid being typecast in that one, specific role, which would not only help keep her filmography from declining in quality, but also allow her to explore other roles, and bring her talents to a variety of characters.
McCarthy does have another film with Paul Feig lined up for the future, and since he's been involved with both Bridesmaids and The Heat, it's likely that no matter how poorly Tammy does, we will forget all about it the second Susan Cooper hits theaters. However, we're hoping that neither she nor we will have to solely rely on her collaborations with Feig in order to see performances from McCarthy that are both funny and grounded.
Tammy is set to hit theaters on July 2, 2014.
The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.