Let’s begin with the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody: “Precarious employment and unemployment, grinding frustration and stifled dreams, alcoholism and drug abuse, adultery and near-incest, the unhealed wounds of family abandonment, car crashes and public rages, violent crime and incarceration—Tammy, the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, has it all. She’s one of the film’s producers; she co-wrote the script with Ben Falcone (her husband), who directed; and, though I’m honor-bound to report that Tammy is not a very funny comedy, it’s worth adding that, in substance, it’s hardly a comedy at all…. Essentially, McCarthy applies her unique comic style—a fast-talking, raucous routine of boastful vanity and socially awkward swagger—to a near-neo-noir plot of a lower-middle-class downward spiral.”
“Tammy is introduced like so many comedic protagonists before her, suffering a series of humiliating defeats (job lost, car totaled, husband caught cheating), and all in one morning,” writes David Lee Dallas at Slant. “Once Tammy reaches rock-bottom, she’s freed to embark on a foreseeably disastrous road trip with her alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), though even this plot development feels like an easy out, a generic narrative skeleton that gives its two stars ample room and opportunity to improvise and bicker with each other en route to predetermined final destinations both geographic and narrative.”
“Tammy’s journey, as they like to say in movieland, is into self-worth,” writes the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis. “Yet the far more interesting trip here, at least until her self-actualization kicks in, is through an America of lousy jobs, tyrannical bosses, nickel-and-diming poverty and real-looking women.”
“For all its slapstick outrageousness, Tammy never lets audiences forget that it’s about two fundamentally sad, broken women at a perilous crossroads in their lives,” writes Nathan Rabin at the Dissolve. “A crowd-pleasing, proudly working-class celebration of large women, old women, broke women, and women who love women, Tammy isn’t just consistently funny and unexpectedly touching and tender, it’s also genuinely subversive.”
“The film is perhaps most endearing as a showcase for a fine ensemble of actresses, including Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Sandra Oh, and Sarah Baker,” suggests the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd. “And Sarandon, again, gamely embraces what could have been a stock role (the troublemaking octogenarian), leaning heavily on her underused comedic chops…. Ultimately, the big problem with Tammy is Tammy herself: She’s an ill-conceived underdog—a down-on-her-luck heroine who oscillates, per the demands of the poky plot, between typically caustic wit and an uncharacteristic defeatism. McCarthy just doesn’t excel at wallowing self-pity; she’s a force of madcap confidence, not a wallflower in need of self-help seminars.”
“It’s a film that’s made to showcase its star’s remarkable ability to make a hairpin turn from blustery fearlessness right into poignant plaintiveness,” writes Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed. “The amount of time it focuses on the latter is bound to disappoint anyone expecting something rowdier, but as the first movie McCarthy’s had a hand in creating herself, it speaks to the kind of role she wants to play. Tammy’s rough, abrasive, impulsive, selfish, and immature, but she’s not a cartoon or the comic relief—goddamn right, she’s the heroine.”
For Time‘s Richard Corliss, Tammy is “a little comedy that flops in big ways.” He lists six. For the Voice‘s Alan Scherstuhl, Tammy “has all the problems of The Heat and only a quarter of the laughs.” New York‘s David Edelstein finds that McCarthy “attempts to metamorphose from a slob-clown into a figure of maturity and pathos and romance—in the course of a single film. I hesitate to label the result as bad or good. It’s just … off.”
More from Jason Bailey (Flavorwire), Nicholas Bell (Ioncinema, 1.5/5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 3/5), Justin Chang (Variety), Paul Constant (Stranger), Aisha Harris (Slate), Jordan Hoffman (Film.com, 5.9/10), Christy Lemire (RogerEbert.com, 2.5/4), Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter), Drew McWeeney (HitFix), Drew Taylor (Playlist, D), Anne Thompson and Esther Zuckerman (Wire).
Updates, 7/3: Tammy “is a hell of a lot better than anyone had a right to expect,” argues Michael Sicinski in the Nashville Scene. “In light of this, perhaps we can take a moment to think about the film and its star as participants in the ongoing tug-of-war we call feminism, even if you might not immediately think of Tammy as some kind of statement in the culture wars. Indeed it’s not, but part of what makes McCarthy such a welcome comedic presence in the cinema has a lot to do with a kind of everyday, lived-in feminism—a rare projection of general comfort with her zaftig form.”
“This movie doesn’t know what it’s about,” finds Grantland‘s Wesley Morris. “Neither does McCarthy’s comedy. She continues to do the equivalent of cannonballing into a pool: drenching us, laughing. But her ‘stupid blue-collar fat lady’ routine is now a shtick.”
More from Eric Kohn (Indiewire), David Jenkins (Little White Lies), Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle, 1.5/5) and Tim Robey (Telegraph, 3/5).
Update, 7/7: “By the end of the film, the lesson seems to be that Tammy’s life is always going to be shitty if she blames other people for her problems and that if she buckles down and works her ass off, things will get better.” Joe Swanberg at the Talkhouse Film: “In the America I experience, it’s more complicated than that, and the movie seems to know that, then forget it.”
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