It’s July, the midway point of summer. For those of you keeping track at home, I have watched sons make peace with fathers, celebrities face the end of the world, and monsters accept their personal differences. This week I was able to add a feminist flick into the mix.
The “buddy cop” plot of The Heat is a familiar one. A strait-laced FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) comes to work on a drug case in Boston where she is paired with a local foul-mouthed policewoman (Melissa McCarthy). The two butt heads as they try to solve the case but eventually recognize each others’ strengths as crime fighters and as friends.
Like any film, The Heat is not perfect. It presents a weak portrait of people of color, makes cliché jokes about Boston accents, and includes a regrettable amount of anti-albinism humor. Nevertheless, The Heat has many other factors working in its favor. The script was written by a woman, and the soundtrack is full of female artists. The Heat also aces The Bechdel Test, which requires a film to include two named women who talk to each other about something other than men. The most obvious appeal, however, lies in the chemistry between McCarthy and Bullock.
Separately, these actresses are humorous; together, they are hysterical. Bullock’s traditional comedic approach is the ideal counter to McCarthy’s ad lib aesthetic. I found myself jiggling and crying from laughter multiple times due to their ridiculous rapport. Their mutual exchange of crassness and compassion makes a very strong case for more female-driven buddy comedies. The evolution of their onscreen friendship is an absolute joy to watch, one that is made even sweeter by their real-life best friend status.
The chemistry and comedy in The Heat is enough to make it a must-see, but its message of empowerment will make it a must-own for me. The film carves out a place for funny, fierce (and, yes, fat!) females in pop culture. As someone who identifies as all of those things, I could not be more grateful.