Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Heat: Almost a Home Run

[Image text: McCarthy and Bullock]
This post is a part of my summer blockbuster series. I'll be tagging the whole thing as 2013 blockbusters.

So I finally saw The Heat...and by finally I mean it just came out this past weekend, but my husband and I kept getting free passes to advanced screenings all summer that we could never use.

Anyhoo, it's a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy as Officer Mullins and Sandra Bullock as Special Agent Ashburn. It was written by Katie Dippold (writer for Parks and Rec) and directed by Paul Feig (director of Bridesmaids.)

Let's cut to the chase...I really liked this movie. It was funny and entertaining. The main action of the story revolves around Mullins and Ashburn, who are very different and yet very similar oddballs, working a joint case together. At first Ashburn is off put by Mullins' unorthodox style (aggressive, trusting her gut, and throwing the rule book out of the window) while Mullins views Ashburn as too straight laced and unpersonable. Through the course of their misadventures, they learn to play to their strengths and work together. (Kind of the grown up, lady version of the same lesson in Monsters University.)

McCarthy and Bullock play off of each other brilliantly, with McCarthy hilarious as usual, and Bullock stepping up her comedy game far beyond anything I've seen her do in recent years.

I was a little disappointed that Ashburn is supposed to be the caricature of a cold, driven career woman who others joke "that's why she single" and make comments about how long it's been since she was laid. But I was pleased that the lesson that Ashburn learned wasn't that she needed to feminine up and get a man--but rather that she need to loosen up and let people (in general) get closer to her. In the end, she and Mullins become close. It seems that neither of them have any female friends they are close to, so you can imagine how happy I was when the main "love" story is that they become like sisters.


I also really liked how Mullins was portrayed from a "fat lady in a movie" perspective. I loved Bridesmaids, but McCarthy's body was often the subject of fatphobic jokes in it. That is gone in The Heat. Mullins is someone who is unashamed of herself and that confidence is projected into the world. At one point she explains that she doesn't have to dress sexy because her attitude exudes it (or something similar.) And she's right because at two different points, men who she's had flings with come up to her and profess their adoration.

Additionally, at no point do I remember Mullins' body being the butt of a joke or anyone commenting about it. It was a pretty refreshing take. And it's just a refreshing take in general to have a female buddy cop movie. I mean, how many times do we need to see two dudes fighting crime together? Thank goodness for this spin.

All that said, as I alluded to in the subject line, the film is not perfect. Again, it's like women of color don't exist in this world (as is my constant complaint through this series, and a complaint of many others every day, take a hint, Hollywood.) Furthermore, there are both transphobic and ableist "jokes" featured in the dialogue.

In some ways, it's even more disappointing when a film that gets so much right fails like this. It's a constant reminder that intersectionalism matters. If only white, able bodied, straight women are positively represented, we haven't won, have we?

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  2. I recently watched The Heat. At the end of it, I was trying to figure out why I liked it so much; the idea was nothing new, I had seen plenty of movies where two individuals who hated each other were thrown together to catch the bad guys...The Other Guys for example. Yet, this movie was something new; the two lead characters were females who weren't aiming to "get the guy" by the end of the movie. Further, the two characters weren't portrayed as "sexy powerful" women...the other archetype commonly used to make female characters more appealing. I loved the focus on the relationship between the two women, rather than catering the plot to the male population.

    I was worried that the movie would focus on Ashburn's transformation into the "traditional" idea of the female...like her role in Miss Congeniality, but The Heat pleasantly surprised me. Although there is that cop Ashburn is somewhat interested in, it does not become the focus of the movie and they do not end up together in the end.

    Thank you for your post, I was actually searching the internet for posts like yours; posts that reflected my reactions to the movie.


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