Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I apologize in advance to anybody named Tammy, but…
There’s something so cringe-inducing, so déclassé – so goy – about the name Tammy, the title alone is a stroke of genius. Then you get to the poster, of a thug-faced Melissa McCarthy in a blue “Mahalo” t-shirt, with a hamburger bag over her head and her right hand in another, folded into the general shape of a pistol. If you don’t find this image amusing, save your money. I find it hilarious.
By now most moviegoers know whether they love McCarthy or hate her. I can understand both, though even detractors must admit she crafted a character in “Bridesmaids” that had never been seen before, a demented and delirious creation that took a great movie to its comic zenith. In her subsequent films, she's played versions of the same persona: opportunistic, socially inappropriate, preternaturally sure of herself in the face of all available evidence. There were moments in "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock, that felt revelatory, like we were witnessing the next big thing in movie comedy. Opposite a less adept comic foil, Jason Bateman, in "Identity Thief," McCarthy floundered.
"Tammy" isn't as polished as McCarthy's best work, but it comes from the heart, and it has a lot of big laughs. In his latest attack on McCarthy - disguised as a review of this picture - Rex Reed points out that she and husband/director Ben Falcone "admit it was written in moving cars, on napkins and toilet paper." Who hasn't jotted down ideas on whatever's at hand, for fear of forgetting them? Having seen thousands of well-pedigreed, terrible movies written leisurely on studio lots, I love the idea of a movie written on the run. It frees "Tammy" and gives it a frisson of unpredictability that suits its star.
Remember when Susan Sarandon actually acted? I know, it's been quite a while. Well, she chose this silly little one-off movie to give a genuinely good performance, as Tammy's alcoholic grandma, Pearl, for whom any moment of the day or night can only be improved by imbibing massive amounts of booze. At a party thrown by Pearl's friend Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her wife Susanne (Sandra Oh), Sarandon slurs out a savagely vicious toast to Tammy that's both impossible to turn away from and fall-down funny.
Bates, meanwhile, gets the best line in the whole movie, one that almost required me to step out of the theater to compose myself. Tammy has held up a fast-food joint, but the getaway car is rather conspicuous, owing to the enormous black jet ski hitched to the back. Lenore tells Pearl where to drive to meet her, and at length the paved road gives way to an abandoned field. Lenore is waiting for them, a can of kerosene in hand. As they step out of the car, Lenore begins pouring. "Well lookee here," she says. "Is this little Tammy?"