‘Tammy’ throws herself down and gets back up again

Elena Wandzilak | TV Editor

“Tammy” has Melissa McCarthy written all over it. Which makes complete sense, considering it’s a movie written and produced by Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. For the role of Tammy, McCarthy dons a bad wig, puts on cheap clothing and drives a car right into a deer. Literally. Tammy gets fired from her job, finds her husband having an affair, and decides to go on a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother. And even though you feel bad for Tammy, she isn’t exactly an angel herself. With inflated confidence and a rough-around-the-edges style, she gives out her fair share of insults, whether intentionally or not. She doesn’t know who Mark Twain is and doesn’t always make the right choices, but it’s apparent from the moment you meet Tammy that this woman has heart. As she lies down next to the deer she hit with her car, blowing into its face, you know Tammy has a caring soul and that McCarthy isn’t going to let this character become pure joke or pure sentiment.

McCarthy is certainly the main event, but it’s the rest of the cast that really elevates the film. With Susan Sarandon as the grandmother, Allison Janney as the mother and Dan Aykroyd as the father, you couldn’t ask for a more hilarious family for Tammy. Oh, and don’t forget Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh as a wealthy lesbian couple who throw a rocking lesbian Fourth of July party and help Tammy realize she needs to make a change. Or Ben Falcone as Keith, the too-big-for-his-britches fast-food manager who fires Tammy after she shows up late – and covered in dirt and blood – to work. Or Gary Cole as Grandma Pearl’s “love” interest/hook-up buddy. Or Nat Faxon as Tammy’s cheating husband. Or Toni Collette as the neighbor. The list seems to go on and on with each actor just as talented as the next.

While the overall ensemble was amazing, I feel that Mark Duplass really stole the show. While he is known for his independent film work, whether writing movies like “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” or acting in “Safety Not Guaranteed” or the television show “The League.” (Personally, I’ve known Duplass from his work on Fox’s “The Mindy Project” as Brendan Deslaurier, a male midwife who competes with Mindy Kaling’s OB/GYN practice.)

In “Tammy,” Duplass plays Tammy’s main love interest, Bobby, who she meets at a bar while road-tripping with Grandma Pearl. While his first role is babysitter to his reckless father, his next role, as potential romance for Tammy, really showcases the film’s interest in heart and growth, especially in terms of relationships for the characters. Bobby isn’t a perfect man. He’s bad at compliments and bad at keeping tabs on his father – who keeps hooking up with Grandma Pearl – but he seems to keep popping up, even after he and Tammy say goodbye. His handsome face, tender heart and interest in Tammy help make her seem even more likeable and make it easy to root for Tammy’s personal growth.

The film is full of heartfelt moments, whether between Tammy and Bobby or Tammy and Grandma Pearl, but at its heart, it’s a comedy, and this is where Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon really come alive. In almost every role McCarthy has been in, she’s managed to fall down, get back up and throw herself down again, and it is the determined look on her face (even through a paper bag) as she rams into the fast food counter while trying to get over it that really makes you bust a gut. McCarthy didn’t write and produce this movie to put on a beautiful dress and pretend to be a princess. She wrote this movie to make you laugh. And to think. But above all, to put a smile on your face.

She is the queen on physical comedy, and, as evidenced by her co-writing credit with husband Ben Falcone, a queen of writing funny dialogue between characters, too. It is always enjoyable to see McCarthy throw herself around the screen, but at some point, I want more. I think she is a killer actress and a smart and talented woman, and while I love to see her blow air at a deer and struggle with a lock, I wanted more scenes between McCarthy and Duplass. I loved the sincere moments between Tammy and her grandmother Pearl and the hint of a smile on Bobby’s face as Tammy danced goofily across the dance floor. McCarthy is a fantastic comedic actress, sure, but I think she is also a fantastic actress, period, and I would be interested to see what she would do without the layer of jokes and falls.

“Tammy” was funny and cute, and balanced the outrageous comedic moments with real sentiment and growth. It’s a coming-of-age tale for a woman whose life seems to be falling apart. It’s a wake-up call for someone who is waiting for life to fix itself. And it’s a story of family coming together. But in the end, “Tammy” is just a good laugh, and a good way to spend a couple hours.