Mindless moviegoing has a place in escapist culture, with robotic popcorn consumption as appropriate sound effect.
(I’ll save seats. You get snacks. My answer about popcorn? Always yes. Jurassic World is going to be a huge bag of popcorn for all of us to share while we scream our sillies out. See you there.)
Going to a film is also casting a vote. Plunking the cash down to see a film sends a message to those who made it: make more of the same. Yes, we get what we deserve.
So when my household is begging me to see the new Mad Max, I say sure, but first, Spy.
Mad Max doesn’t need my vote- I’ll see it soon enough and have nothing against orgasmic pyrotechnics, but first I need to laugh in hilarious solidarity with Hollywood’s new superwoman, Melissa McCarthy. That would be the same Melissa McCarthy who just took top spot of the weekend box office, shutting down the boys of Entourage, which isn’t altogether surprising, but is worth celebrating. She’s fierce and funny and owns this film completely, from start to finish.
McCarthy began her career as a stand-up comedian, but became known widely for her role as the chef Sookie, on the TV hit, Gilmore Girls.
My girls and I loved the show and Sookie, and suspected even then the character on the page was nothing without McCarthy’s depth of talent. Here though, she only hinted at the physical comedy to come later in her career.
Then we watched as she almost stole the entire Bridesmaids movie in scenes like this one, opposite her real life husband.
Comedic genius starts with taking risks. McCarthy goes for it every time with brilliant improvisation. Here she is on SNL with a little piece of magic. Watch closely and see how effortlessly she creates a character both funny and poignant.
In Spy, written and directed by Bridesmaids‘ Paul Feig, we have a few familiar constructs set-up at the onset: fish out of water/ unlikely introvert becomes hero. Cue the exotic locations, speed chase and glamorous villains. Nothing much here to warrant the ticket price, but wait, there’s McCarthy doing her thing again, injecting an ordinary narrative with enough brash and cheeky skill to send it soaring. The woman loves wigs and understands better than anyone else right now the power of the costume. As the dowdy CIA agent Susan Cooper, McCarthy has sad eyes and curls, but wait for the hit parade of costume changes, each worth a whole movie house cheer. McCarthy doesn’t just wear the costume, but assumes a range of body language, performing stunts and quips with equal power.
There’s also the lovely surprise of an honest female friendship, still rare on film, where women are often washed in sentimental goo. When this happens, an expected spy spoof becomes a feminist fable, without the soapbox. This is an actor with great understanding of the industry around her. She knows how to work it, and just when to skewer it, and all the while making you beg to have her represent your team.
I grew up with funny and interesting women, and my friends are funny, interesting women. So I can’t think of any story where those women don’t come into play. It’s the same as how I can’t imagine writing a story with no men. It’s just not real.
It’s not perfect, but there is much to love about Spy. Will it have legs to warrant a full franchise? The box office champ of this weekend faces ferocious competition in the weeks ahead, including Amy Shumer’s Trainwreck. The more money Spy makes, the more creative power talents like McCarthy have. That’s a win, whether she’s kicking butt in familiar genres, or making up her own.
Stay tuned. This lunch lady has hidden lockers. I can’t wait to see what’s on the menu next.