SIFF Film Review – Spy
As a feminist who cares deeply about the representation of women in the media – both how women are presented and how often – I feel really bad for hating Paul Feig’s movie Bridesmaids. I HATED IT. My husband and I went out for dinner, had a couple of drinks, and were fully prepared to get our awesome lady comedy on. We walked out when the diarrhea started and went home to watch some Parks and Recreation instead. I just didn’t think it was funny. I fully support Paul Feig and his evil plan to fill the world with funny ladies. I AM DOWN WITH THAT MISSION. I just don’t generally find his movies all that humorous. Which is a problem, because they supposed to be comedies. I didn’t want to see his new film Spy, but since it was the opening film at the Seattle International Film Festival, it’s kind of my job. In a shocking turn of events, I did not hate it. I laughed out loud four times and chuckled a couple more, but found the true strength of the film to be its combat scenes. While I don’t think bat poop jokes are all that funny, I find a well executed, bone crushing fight to be delightful.
Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an analyst for the CIA. She works behind the scenes to guide her 007ish partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through his daredevil missions. She’s kind of in love with him, but he likes things just the way they are: with her picking up his dry cleaning and feeding him intel in the field. While trying to prevent the sale of a nuclear weapon, he is killed by the nefarious Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Because all the top tier agents have been recently outed, Susan volunteers to go out into the field to collect information. She is not to engage – just observe. Since that would be a boring-ass movie, of course she engages, donning one incredibly ugly disguise after another. She constantly battles with rogue agent Rick Ford (a surprisingly funny Jason Statham) who thinks she’s going to screw the whole thing up. But with the help of her close friend and fellow analyst Nancy (Miranda Hart – Chummy from Call the Midwife!!!! Sorry, she’s my fave.), Susan turns out to be a little more kick ass than anyone expects. BUT WILL SHE PREVENT THE SALE OF THE NUCLEAR DEVICE??????????? You must watch to find out.
I’ll be honest; there is a lot here to dislike. The plot is just meant to be something to hang gags on. Yes, the film is a spoof on spy films, but there is no reason why the story has to be so bland; it’s just silly nonsense. And of course most of the jokes weren’t funny to me. There is a running gag about rodent infestations at CIA headquarters that just left me cold. During the first half of the movie, I was pretty sure all of my worst fears were coming true. And then something happened; I started to have mild amounts of fun once Susan started kicking ass. The fight scenes in this are really good, and Melissa McCarthy makes a believable action star. Of course she has stunt doubles, but who doesn’t. (Sometimes I feel like I need one just to get up in the morning.) I bought in to the reality of the fight scenes because the film never does anything to subvert the idea that she could put the hurt on someone. I would LOVE to see McCarthy do action films with a touch of humor. I think she could pull straighter roles off easily.
While the humor here tends to be sophomoric, slapsticky, and possibly offensive to those with more delicate sensibilities, there is nothing offensive in its portrayal of women. There are all kinds of ladies here, and strong female friendships, which is nice to see. On the down side it would have been nice to have some evil female henchpeople, and man is this film white. Super white. Five minutes of 50 Cent doesn’t really make it diverse. So yeah, it’s an imperfect film I wish I could have liked more but didn’t totally hate. If you like previous Paul Feig films or Melissa McCarthy than you will probably enjoy this. If you don’t like them but get taken to it against your will, it’s not egregiously offensive and has some nice action scenes. I wish it were funnier, but I’ll take lots of punching instead.