I love Melissa McCarthy. There are plenty of people who find her crude, annoying and unfunny but I'm not one of those people. I am still baffled that there are those out there who actually hated The Heat, which I think is one of the funniest comedies in recent years. And McCarthy's nomination for her wonderful work in Bridesmaids is one of my all time favorite Oscar nominations. To top these two movies would be tough, but that is exactly what Spy managed to do.
Meet Susan. Susan is a
CGI agent but without the glamor of the job - she is eyes the ears of
another agent, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She sits in the basement, navigates him through
corridors and frequently saves his life via a headset. Soon Fine is killed by an arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who also has a list of all the active agents. So Susan
volunteers to go in the field herself, seeing how everyone else was compromised. She will have to face self doubt, the bad
guys, Rayna, awful disguises and constantly interrupting agent gone rogue, Rick Ford (Jason Statham).
Spy has all the right elements comedy should have - a
likable, relatable heroine, a sharp script and plenty of laughs.
McCarthy is the heart of the movie and creates a lovely performance -
being convincing both as sweet, kind and shy Susan and then a badass
agent. The transition between these two sides of Susan never feels
jarring, thanks to well written character and McCarthy's talents.
script yet again, as with other movies from Paul Feig, gives us a huge dose of girl power in the form of
McCarthy kicking so much ass and routinely proving herself to be
better than her colleagues at being an agent. There's also Susan's
friend who serves as Susan's eyes and ears for most of the movie and
the two of them have great chemistry together. They really feel like
friends. And there is even a bond developing between Susan and
Rayna, which is a lovely touch. For the most part, though their
interactions are filled with hilarious banter, the best one occurring
when Susan is pretending to be Rayna's bodyguard. McCarthy's quick wit
known so well by now and her saucy insults are just on fire here,
peaking at Susan downright verbally massacring Rayna's other bodyguard.
Susan is given a
series of completely ridiculous disguises given to her because she is
not some tall, skinny blonde. She is either a widow, a cat lady or
cosmetics saleswoman. Thankfully at some point Susan has enough of those
and decides to dress her own way. What Feig does here is poke fun at the way women like McCarthy are seen, but never being insulting or offensive. It's a fine line but the script never makes fun of its clever and attractive heroine.
The film also never makes fun of Susan's size - yeah, she cannot slide on the hood of the car, but who the fuck can? The only times Susan's appearance is getting insulted are to do with the way she is dressed, which are disguises. In fact, refreshingly, it's Rose Byrne's Rayna who is more of an object of ridicule - with her ridiculously high heels and super weak arms.
Spy is really such a breath of fresh air and Feig yet again gave us such a great female-driven script. I'm fairly sure the movie passes Bechdel test within its first 15 minutes. I wrote previously that Susan does her job better than her male colleagues but it's not some sort of "women are superior" statement - Susan does the job better not because she is a woman, but because she is skilled, intelligent and resourceful.
While Jude Law's strength was
never comedy, he did well here, being a very good fit for his
character. A true find, though is Peter Serafinowicz who nearly steals
the movie from everyone as completely inappropriate Italian agent who is
assigned to help Susan and while doing so he just cannot stop hitting on
her. It's so great seeing a woman like McCarthy as an object of such a
desire and because of how cute and in the end harmless Aldo is his
advances never come off as gross or creepy.
But the real star of
the show is none other than Jason Statham. One of my biggest cinematic
wishes was for Statham to do comedy again - he was so wonderful in Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and one of my all time favorite films -
Snatch. Not that I don't appreciate Jason doing his action thing,
because I do, but he really has a wonderful comedic talent. So it's
just a pure joy not only seeing him again in a funny material but seeing
him do so well with it.
Paul Feig is a fan of Statham's action movies and tailored Statham's character in the film especially for him play. Statham plays the part hilariously and
he does it so well in part because of the meta thing - his Rick Ford
constantly brags about doing impossible things like jumping off a train
on motorcycle or attaching his own arm....with his other arm. But here
is the twist - Ford continuously screws up, in spite of meaning well.
The hilarity of such moments as Ford dramatically saying that he moves
like a shadow followed by him bumping into a waiter and causing him to loudly
drop the silverware is amplified because it is Statham whom we never
before saw screw up....well, anything really.
There's also very amusing Allison Janney as
Susan's tough boss who refuses to cradle her but gives her praise when
praise is indeed deserved. It was refreshing seeing a realistic
character like that - Janney's character doesn't go out of her way to help
Susan out of the kindness of her heart, like things usually go in
comedies, but much like Susan she just wants to do a good job. That was really cool, to have a movie that
preaches girl power without shoving faux stuff like women
supporting each other selflessly because of solidarity. As someone who works with a lot of women let me tell you, it's just not terribly realistic, unless the women helping each other out are close friends.
Then there is Bobby Cannavale who is proving himself to be very versatile, bringing intensity to his dramatic roles and here fully embracing his ridiculous character. Miranda Hart is another person for whom Feig wrote the character specifically and she is so funny, particularly in the scenes where she embraces finally being a real spy out in the field.
There is also a whole bunch of people we also saw in Bridesmaids and The Heat, including McCarthy's real life husband, delivering very funny cameo appearance. Perhaps one of the many reasons why Feig's comedies are so good is that they are made by people who obviously like and respect each other and like working together. There is so much fun in this movie and I'm sure it was also tons of fun behind the scenes.
film also has insanely catchy assembly of songs and is a bottomless
well of awesome lines (-It's a man's coat - Yeah, but I don't see a man,
do I?"). Then there is whole bunch of additional stuff - like Statham's ridiculous disguises and Rayna's even more ridiculous hairstyles - that only add to how funny Spy is. And there is a lovely message here - in the end Susan finds courage and confidence not because of what others do and say, but because she finally takes a risk and finds out just how capable she really is.
And hey, she gets such a great celebration in the last scene of the movie. I cannot imagine anything better.
I really don't think we will see funnier, more entertaining comedy this year.
Spy (2015, 120 min)
Plot: Susan Cooper is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung
hero behind the Agency's most dangerous missions. But when her partner
falls off the grid and another top agent is compromised, she volunteers
to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer,
and prevent a global crisis.
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Paul Feig
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law