Monday, November 16, 2015

The Girl Week Blogathon: Spy


As announced yesterday, I'm dedicating this entire week to the ladies and posting only about movies with female leads. You can join me in what I'm dubbing The Girl Week Blogathon. This is my first entry.

Directed by Paul Feig.
2015. Rated R, 120 minutes.
Cast:
Melissa McCarthy
Jason Statham
Rose Byrne
Jude Law
Allison Janney
Miranda Hart
Bobby Cannavale
Peter Serafinowicz
Morena Baccarin
Nargis Fakhri
Will Yun Lee
50 Cent

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a CIA operative who has never been in the field. She works from behind a desk guiding Agent Fine (Law) through his missions. When he is fatally shot by the nefarious Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), Susan volunteers to go after her since Rayna seems to know the names of all of the CIA's field operatives. Her bestest work buddy Nancy (Hart) becomes her guide. Meanwhile, Susan keeps running into Agent Ford (Statham), an angry sort who decides to work the case on his own after being passed over for Cooper. Hilarity ensues.

Unlike with the last few Melissa McCarthy flicks, there is consistent hilarity. The films in which she has been the star tend to either start funny and fizzle out early (Identity Thief, Heat) or not be funny at all (Tammy). Spy manages to maintain a high level of humor throughout and backs it with fun action scenes. McCarthy's performance works well on both fronts of her comedy stylings with self-deprecating humor blending nicely with her trademark raging, foul-mouthed tirades. The 'woe is me' aspect of her persona is even more effective during a few heartfelt moments. She grounds the movie without dragging it down. It's her most fully realized performance and one that hints she might also excel in a dramatic role. Again, none of this is to take away from her raunchier side which is held in check for a good portion of the movie. When we finally get it, it doesn't just appear. It explodes all over the screen in such a good way. All of it meshes perfectly with the physical parts of her role. Here is where McCarthy ices the cake by being more than athletic enough to pull off what's asked of her in convincing fashion.

Spy is not a solo act, though. After a stellar turn in Neighbors, Rose Byrne again proves her comedic chops by giving us a fun, perfectly vapid villain. Her Rayna Boyanov plays as if Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian decided to start bumping off CIA ops and it works wonderfully. Allison Janney keeps the ball rolling as Cooper's boss while Miranda Hart does the same as Cooper's sidekick. In his brief time on screen, Jude Law gives us a terrific riff on James Bond. Jason Statham is the highlight of the supporting cast. He gives us a shameless blow-hard with a personality that would have been a perfect fit in some of his earlier British films. Meanwhile, every word out of his mouth is pure parody of his own action hero image. His back and forths with McCarthy provide a number of hilarious scenes as he just makes the most outlandish claims about his own invincibility. It's a great reminder that Statham is more than just a guy who is good at beating people up on camera.


On the downside, the story is rather generic, and thus, predictable. Almost nothing happens that we couldn't spot well ahead of time. The entire plot is very reminiscent of any number of spy flicks, just tweaked to fit these characters and a comedy motif. Another demerit is earned by the movie for failing to do the same thing other McCarthy movies either fail to do or approach tepidly. Our heroine is without a proper love interest. Anything of a remotely sexual nature involving her is either played for laughs or to drum up sympathy for her. Most of the jokes involving this are funny and the pity-party stuff achieves the desired effect so it's not a major flaw in the movie. However, it does point at a problematic pattern in her filmography. Any man attracted to her is depicted as not quite right. In this case, it's Aldo (Serafinowicz), a relentless pervert who makes unwanted advances on every woman he comes across including constant attempts to grope McCarthy. There is also the way things play out with Law's character and something else that happens at the very end, The talents of the actors involved makes it palatable, but it still seems to suggest that a woman who does not fit the standard Hollywood image of beauty cannot have a normal relationship. It would be one thing if it were the way other characters treated her, but something happens to turn the tables. However, the movie itself seems to support the notion.

For the purpose of gauging how much I like or dislike Spy, the issues I laid out in the previous paragraph are minor. The fact of the matter is that the positives far outweigh the negatives in this case. As a raunchy R-rated comedy, it's funny throughout with a fairly steady stream of laugh-out-loud moments. As an action flick, it's exciting with plenty of adrenaline pumping scenes during which our heroine performs a number of amazing feats and has some great fight scenes. Both elements made the two hour runtime fly by, where that's normally far too long for a comedy. Of the films in which Melissa McCarthy is a headliner, this is by far my favorite.



22 comments:

  1. This film was hilarious. I had fun watching this and please, FYC Jason Statham for Best Supporting Actor. He's so hilarious. Plus, I love that moment where Miranda Hart's character saw 50 Cent and said "OMG, 50 pent-piece!"

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    1. This was loads of fun. I doubt Statham will get a nod, but he is deserving.

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  2. I actually didn't expect to like this as much, considering McCarthy had been in some awful comedies. This was hilarious, loved McCarthy and the supporting cast (especially Statham) in this.

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    1. I had the same expectations going. Thankfully, this exceeded those by leaps and bounds.

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  3. LOVED this film, easily one of my favorites of the year still. It's the funniest film McCarthy has done, and it's also her fullest performance. And that supporting cast!! I totally agree that Statham was the stand-out, but they were ALL great - a rarity these days.

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  4. I finally saw this a couple of weeks ago having missed it in theatres and thought it was a fun, goofy spy spoof that was hampered slightly by a few scenes of too graphic violence and needlessly crude dialogue that diluted some of the pleasure of the film for me.

    But overall I really did enjoy it, McCarthy is so talented but she is surrounded by an entire cast who jumps into the spirit of the film. I LOVE Miranda Hart, I knew her before this from the British series Call the Midwife, who is perfect as her gawky office buddy who reacts just as you'd expect when finding herself suddenly in the field. I agree that Melissa McCarthy could score in drama, she has a winsomeness that could be turned to pathos, she has qualities that remind me of the awesome Margo Martindale.

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    1. I fully expected the crude dialogue, given that it was McCarthy, and I have a predilection for "too graphic violence," so those things aided my own enjoyment, lol. Glad you liked the film. And I really hope to see McCarthy with a major role in a drama. If she's anywhere near as good as Martindale, she'll be fantastic.

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  5. I remember when I went to watch this film, I was half-comatose from school and could barely move the muscles necessary to laugh but I found this film extremely funny. I think you're right about McCarthy adding something besides raunchy humour to her stable of skills, I think she could go dramatic. Statham was also a delight, don't know if you've ever seen a tv show called Archer - it's about a spy who does more boasting and drinking than actual spy work. Statham's Ford was reminiscent of that and I think he should do more comedy because he is quite a funny guy. The love interest question is an interesting one. No matter how weird a male character is, his love interest is almost always normal and desirable but female leads who like you said aren't hollywood's conventional 'beautiful' do get weird lovers. I think it's definitely a weakness Hollywood has at the moment but one that I think will pass as more and more unconventional actors garner fame and writers have to broaden their perspectives.

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    1. I've seen bits and pieces of a couple different episodes of Archer, not enough to remember. Might have to check it out more fully. I've always found Statham funny. Even in most of his action flicks he shows a sly sense of humor. McCarthy is a big time talent. Hopefully, she'll go further in testing and stretching it. And I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about the love interest issue.

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  6. I just watched this last night and thought it was hilarious. I'm shocked, I can't stand McCarthy. I think shes completely overrated in Bridesmaids and I've only found a few of her skits when hosting SNL funny. Otherwise I think she's obnoxious, but this film worked. Mostly because of Stathium, Byrne, and Hart. But it worked.

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    1. Glad you liked it. I'm a gan of hers, but I think she's picked some pretty bad projects. That supporting cast was great, especially Statham.

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  7. I don't get your problem with the men and Susan - just because Aldo was a bit pervy doesn't mean he was not a good guy. What, is it wrong that the bore that was Law's character and her didn't hook up in the end? I loved the way they played it. Also yes - Statham rocks. I wish he teamed up with Ritchie again.

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    1. No. I'm glad she didn't end up with Law's character. That's not my complaint. Aldo was funny within the context of the movie, but I can't go so gar as to call him good guy when constantly and brazenly trying to feel up every woman in sight. I just find it curious that these kinds of guys are the only ones interested in her in almost all of her movies. It's like they have to be some sort of degenerate, or pissy-drunk, or both to like her. That's all. And yes, Statham rocks.

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    2. Well Aldo was the only guy in the movie who genuinely praised her work and made her believe in herself again, without treating her like an old, spinster friend or Ford's final 'thanks' :)

      Also The Heat? There was a nice subplot with a whole bunch of men chasing after her.

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    3. You're absolutely right that Aldo genuinely praises her, I just wish he wasn't so creepy. It doesn't help that his big declaration has nothing to do with wanting to get to know her in any meaningful way. He simply wants to, in his words, fuck her. On top of that, she had no interest in him, so he's not really a love interest. Having guys chase after her in The Heat was okay, but the actual love story was between Sandra Bullock and Anthony Mackie with McCarthy's love life is relegated to punchline status. In either case, it had little effect on how much I enjoyed the movie while in the movie. I think Spy is great. It's just something I noticed that seems to be a recurring theme in her work.

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  8. This movie is amazing. Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig are such a good combination. And I'm glad you highlighted Jason Statham. He kills it, and absolutely keeps up with Melissa the whole way, which can't be easy!

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    1. Statham was on fire. Would love to see him back for a sequel, should they make one.

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  9. Great review! I wasn't nearly as excited about this movie as I'd expected to be. I think it was because, as you said, the plot was fairly generic. I did like the main character, though, and Jason Statham was hilarious.

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    1. Glad you at least liked it. I had a blast with it.

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  10. I really heard many pleasant things about this.

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