Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tammy [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Tammy [2014] (directed and cowritten by Ben Falcone along with Melissa McCarthy) continues a string of both very funny movies starring the rather short and rather rotund actress Melissa McCarthy, and movies that despite their gags, sometimes on the cruder side, are _not_ without their point.  As such, like MILLIONS OF OTHER FANS, I have to say that I really LIKE her films and I know that for many, many of our parishioners at Annunciata she is "THE BOMB."

In the current story, set somewhere in downstate Illinois, Tammy (played by Melissa McCarthy) is introduced to us having an epically bad day, she crashes into a deer while heading to work at a random fast food joint, is late therefore arriving at work to the fast food joint, gets fired as a result and returns home early, to find that her husband Greg (played by Nat Faxon) is messing around with their otherwise nice neighbor Missi (played by Toni Collete).  Adding 2 and 2 together, even if perhaps she has it wrong (both Greg and Missi seem to be very nice people and not necessarily messing around in _that_ way), she declares them to be having an affair, packs her bag and head to, where she always heads to when she has a problem: mom's house.

'Cept mom (played by Allison Janney) isn't all that excited about having Tammy home (again?).  Indeed, we find her challenging Tammy to find another way to deal with her problems when grandma named Pearl (played by Susan Sarandon), with her own agenda, steps in.  Ma' was going to send gramms "to a home," gramms was not ready to go, and so Tammy arriving with her suitcase but no money, husband or job, becomes gramm's "ticket to flee."  Okay, it's not exactly the best of plans.  Arguably both Tammy and gramms are enabling each other to continue to avoid harsh realities, but it's a (temporary) "way out" for both of them: Using gramm's car and money, they decide take a quite random road-trip up to Niagara Falls by way of Aunt Lenore (played by Kathy Bates) and her lover Susanne (played by Sandra Oh) living out Kentucky-way.  Much ensues...

Among that which ensues is that both Tammy and Pearl find that they need to grow up / face reality.  And their instructor interestingly enough becomes good ole lesbian Aunt Lenore.  At different times she finds that she has to dress down these two "whiny women" telling them: "Guess what, life _is_ hard" and no one is going to help them (or even be able to help them) until they take responsibility for their lives even when at times it's not easy -- Tammy's not exactly Helen of Troy (neither as rich nor as good looking as she), and Pearl's gettin' old (and also has a drinking problem...).  But then Lenore knew a thing or two about taking responsibility for her life and making the best of things with the cards (gifts/talents) that she was given.

It all makes for a simple story but a remarkably good one: Yes, every single one of us will find life at times to be hard, challenging, disappointing, "not what we wished it to be," but HONESTLY "that's life," and we're asked within the talents and limits that we're given, to make the best of it (and hopefully to be able to reach out to others positively as well).  And honestly, how can one not applaud such a call to both responsibility and compassion?

Now looking at this film, the Catholic Church itself could find itself collectively sighing/complaining a little as "a lesbian couple" is arguably portrayed in the film as the most well-adjusted "of the lot."  But as I've written about this before (in my review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [2011]), the Catholic Church and Society have come to a cross-roads.  The Church has stated its position regarding homosexuality and Society, certainly Hollywood / the artistic community, has chosen to take a different view.  As such, part of the pain of taking the stand that the Catholic Church has taken on homosexuality is that it will have to endure for the foreseeable future one film after another in which homosexuals are portrayed as happy, responsible people differing from heterosexuals only in their sexual orientation, and in a free society there will be nothing that the Church will be able to do about it.  Nothing, except acknowledge that even imperfect people (as we are all) can still teach us all.  In any case, it should be noted that the CNS/USCCB's reviewer gave the film NOT an "O" (morally offensive), not an "L" (for limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling) but an "A-III," the CNS/USCCB's equivalent of the MPAA's R-rating, and the MPAA gave the film an R-rating as well.

In any case, I would like end here by restating my admiration for Melissa McCarthy.  She has proven to be wildly popular in the parish where I serve and I by what I've seen wildly popular among "regular people" all across the country.  And I do think it is because people can relate to her and to the messages that her films often carry.   Here the message was very simple: Don't whine. Know who you are and do the best that you can with the cards (gifts) that you've been given.   And again, how can one not applaud that message?  Good job!

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