If ever a movie was not what was expected, “Tammy” is that movie…and that is a very good thing.
Written by the husband and wife team of Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy and directed by Falcone, “Tammy’s” narrative is more heart-warming and quiet than anticipated or promoted. Essentially “Tammy” is the coming-of-age story for both the title character (Melissa McCarthy) and her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). The movie’s beginning is the McCarthy-type movie we’ve seen in the past…loud, in-your-face, clownish…but then the character and the film begin to evolve into something else and we start to witness more of the McCarthy many of us met first as the “Gilmore Girls’” Sookie St. James.
We are introduced to Tammy in the middle of her very bad morning. Enroute to work at Topper Jack’s, a McDonald’s-type fast food restaurant, she hits a deer. Car destroyed, Tammy eventually shows up to work a foul-mouthed, bedraggled mess. She’s promptly fired by her boss (Falcone) and upon exiting gives the kind of “farewell” many of us have only dreamed about giving to a bad employer. Tammy heads home to find her husband (Ned Faxon) having what looks to be more than a casual breakfast with their neighbor (Toni Collette). After hurling some vile insults, she packs up her belongings and heads off to her mother’s (Allison Janney) home, a few doors down the street, in the hopes of taking her car and leaving town. Her mother is not about to let that happen. However, Tammy’s diabetic, alcoholic grandmother who lives with her mother is more than willing to help out with car and money, on the condition that Tammy takes her along. And with that, they’re off, much to the horror of Tammy’s mother. Pearl has always wanted to go to Niagara Falls, so from Illinois they begin to head east. Naturally the trip doesn’t go smoothly. Along the way there are bar fights, robbery, jail time and even romance. But there’s also growth. A visit with and advice from wealthy relative Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner, Susanne (Sandra Oh), begins to finally sink in and perhaps there is hope for both Tammy and Pearl.
“Tammy” has an extremely talented supporting cast. Gary Cole and Mark Duplass as father and son Earl and Bobby, respectively, are very good as potential romantic interests, especially Bobby. Duplass brings a touch of normalcy and quietness to his role which meshes beautifully with Tammy’s outgoing personality. Dan Ackroyd makes a welcome return to the screen as Tammy’s father. His down to earthiness is spot-on, and it’s easy to imagine him as Tammy’s father.
Susan Sarandon handles her mean-spirited, spunky part perfectly. But she is completely miscast and that is a shame and the one big downfall of the movie. No amount of makeup, wigs or acting can convince one that she is old enough to be Tammy’s grandmother. “Nebraska’s” June Squibb would have been perfect in this role.
Melissa McCarthy has chosen to write and showcase a slightly softer side of her acting personality. While there are aspects of the characters she’s depicted in “Bridesmaids” and “Heat,” there is a difference. Brashness and pratfalls abound, but they lessen as the film progresses. McCarthy has the opportunity to show that inside Tammy’s rough exterior is a person with profound insecurities and McCarthy succeeds in spades in that portrayal. One can only hope that we get to see more of that kind of acting from her in the future.
“Tammy” is not a thigh-slapper and those expecting that kind of comedy will be disappointed. Others, however, will be pleasantly surprised, and most of all, entertained.