Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
When a movie stars Melissa McCarthy, you probably know what you’re getting yourself into – probably very well. Really. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been seeing the actress in a set of performances that are gradually typecasting her. The precise problem with this is that slowly, but surely, the studios refuse to do anything different with the actor in question – even if that would be to give him/her a worthier screenplay to be a part of.
However, in the case of Tammy, the studios are clearly not to blame. The movie has been jointly written by McCarthy and her husband, actor Ben Falcone (who also makes his directing debut with this film). And from the looks of it, McCarthy seems to be enjoying every moment if her run as almost the same character we’ve seen in previous movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Identity Thief, amongst others – of course with a few subtle differences around everywhere.
But that’s the thing. The bright side of this rather risky one-way street is that McCarthy manages to pull it off even through the worst projects featuring her. Which automatically makes her a presence to expect quite a bunch from, apart from the really talented likes of Susan Sarandon (Cloud Atlas), Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed) and Sandra Oh (television’s Grey’s Anatomy) surrounding her.
Otherwise? There’s little more to expect, honestly, apart from having a good time and a few laughs.
What’s it About?
Of course, you can never expect when bad days fall upon you. Atleast Tammy (McCarthy) doesn’t, one fine day, when her car gets totaled by a deer, she gets fired from her job, and finds out her husband is cheating on her. Meanwhile, her grandmother (Sarandon) has always wanted to see the Niagra falls. While Tammy and her grandmother don’t get along, both need an exit pass, and so begins a road trip that will not be as straightforward as any of them think it will be.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
But that’s the thing about the film. It starts off as something, builds ground, shifts into something else, builds ground, and then shifts into something else completely. After the first few minutes of a bumbling McCarthy, the audience is introduced to some solid humour that’s bound to get them laughing out loud. Just when they think they’d have found a grip to the kind of tone the film sets, the movie jumps somewhere else without bridging the two things together. Now, this writer doesn’t abhor this concept completely – it’s brave to flit between different tonalities in a comedy – much less a road film – but the problem that the screenplay creates here is the lack of investment we as an audience are able to give to the characters we’re actually supposed to care about. Be it Sarandon’s unpredictable grandmother, or even the guy Tammy’s crushing on, the characters are fresh, but they aren’t able to fully complete their character arcs, thereby missing their marks quite a bit. Props to McCarthy-Falcone though for writing and executing to screen a couple of scenes with stupendous emotional connect that is bound to melt hearts. The problem is then that shining comedic moments are ruined by the sudden changes in the goals of people every ten minutes or so until the audience is taken back in the last half an hour to the destination it was supposed to reach any way. However, the last half an hour is anything but satisfactory.
Technically, the movie’s supported by steady moving camerawork, a raw production design and an okay music to boast of. The edit is basic and delivers the story without any gimmickry. The one scene that comes to mind is the famed almost-parody slow-motion entry of McCarthy before she goes ahead and robs a fast food store. Although shot and executed quite well, the excessive promotion of the same dilutes the overall impact it should actually get in the whole of the film.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Melissa McCarthy takes the cake again. Despite the fact that we’ve seen a similar structure in her performances before, she manages to carry the film on her own shoulders. But then – looking at the overall film, this writer suspects that was the intent all along. Not only does she get to give out humor every now and then; she also emotes freely and realistically, which comes as a surprise when the film takes that rare turn. Susan Sarandon is great fun, and her character is radical enough to make you sit up and notice her wholehearted and sincere performance to, but the writing of her character is too disjointed and without goals to make the audience care enough for her. There are many that would argue that this is exactly the point of her character, but then again – if that was the case, the writing could definitely be suited to fit her needs. Mark Duplass is sweet and earnest in her performance of a – erm – sweet and earnest guy. He does come in as an absolute breath of fresh air though, considering his many famed roles as the cocky know-it-all in the various series he features in (The League, The Mindy Project). Sandra Oh is pleasant, but horribly under-utilised. Kathy Bates is confident and has a few strong scenes that complements the character she dons quite well. Ben Falcone in his singular scene is funny without being the stereotypical definition of funny – which works to his favour.
Here’s the very important thing to understand: Tammy is not by any means a terrible film to watch – and this is saying something, considering the wild set of movies with absolutely questionable writing and execution (Walk of Shame, I, Frankenstein, Pompeii, The Legend of Hercules and The Other Woman) that this writer has been witness to. The audience get a bunch of surprisingly genuine laughs thrown around, and a few emotionally relevant scenes that are bound to make one’s heart melt. Where’s the problem then? The problem’s that the supremely talented and funny Melissa McCarthy – who remains an engaging presence here – is getting slightly typecast. While her intent (to take women in comedies out of their stereotypical structure) is noble, it isn’t helping that she’s not any versatile here. That isn’t a problem in films like Bridesmaids and The Heat, but for movies like The Identity Thief and – now – Tammy, what was required of her was a coherent, tonally smooth screenplay, which – unfortunately – goes all over the place, particularly in this case. And just when the audience thinks they can take that, they’re presented with a hurried ending that just doesn’t feel any good.
If you’re a die-hard McCarthy fan, then go for it. If not, then wait for a bit and have a gander at it on television or home video. This one’s strictly a lazy weekend one-time watch that doesn’t do anything worthy of repeat value.
But I’m not sure if that was supposed to be the point of the film anyway.
Star Rating: 2 / 5