When Louise Had a Granddaughter

The new Thelma and Louise
“When Louise Had a Granddaughter”
A Review of Tammy by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, R
Reel Rating, Two Reels

            Although her most creative work is the sweet and gentle better half of Mike & Molly, Melissa McCarthy is best known as a foul-mouthed piece of work in films like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Identity Thief. In Tammy, this character is at her lowest point after being fired unjustly from her low wage fast food job and discovering her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) cheating in the same afternoon. In order to clear her head, she goes on a whirlwind road trip with her equally rambunctious grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Tammy contains some really funny moments, especially between Tammy and Pearl, but these are just a few small morsels drowning in a lethal concoction of booze, adultery, and a host of other bad behaviors. It’s an amusing film but not particularly memorable.
            After having a day to rival Alexander’s, Tammy tries to borrow her mother’s (Allison Janney) car to go “somewhere.” When she refuses, her grandma, already packed, supplies the car and $6,700 provided she gets to tag along. I’m surprised Geena Davis didn’t tag along. Along the way, they engage in drunk driving, fighting minors, and bonding over broken stories of the past until Tammy needs money to bail Pearl out of jail. Tammy then attempts to rob from her former employer in the movie’s funniest scene. “Do you want to die?” Tammy growls at an elderly burger flipper through a paper bag mask. “I’m a veteran,” he responds. Tammy is taken aback: “Really? Well, thank you for your service.” Tammy doesn’t get any tough love or sage advice until she meets Pearl’s cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates). “You have to work hard,” she growls. “You can’t just bitch and moan and expect life to give you things.” It’s the kick in the pants she needs but no one has given her. She does have the courage to admit her mistakes and move on.
            The most troubling aspect of Tammy is the casual treatment of sexuality, although “fun” drunk driving without consequences is probably worse. There are literally no role models for relationships. Tammy rightly criticizes her husbands for committing adultery saying “I’m pretty sure they burn,” yet immediately hooks up with Bobby. How does she meet this Bobby? His father, also still married, is having an affair with Pearl after she kicked Tammy out of their hotel room for a one night stand. Probably the most stable couple is Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner Susanne (Sandra Oh) who hosts a lesbian 4th of July celebration that includes the ceremoniously burning of a jet ski and Pearl flashing everyone while plastered.
            McCarthy and Sarandon have fairly good chemistry but it’s hampered by how constantly they berate each other. In one of the closing scenes, Pearl gets drunk (again) after promising Tammy not to and gives an obscenity laced monologue where she calls Tammy a “cheeseburger” and blames her for Greg’s infidelity. It goes too far, and even though Pearl apologizes when sober, it still stings. Their reconciliation isn’t well earned even though they have improved slightly by the end.  

            There is a really funny, cute little movie inside Tammy but it’s delivered in a grease stained McDonalds’s bag. In The Heat, McCarthy and Bullock shared much better chemistry because their characters were more developed, funnier, and they genuinely cared for each other as the film progressed. In Tammy, there are only sad people behaving badly; the audience is supposed to like some and hate others, but really we just end up being mostly indifferent to everyone.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on July 10th, 2014.