I’ve gotta say, my expectations for The Heat were not high. In fact, I probably would not have bothered to watch it had it not been my mom’s birthday and The Heat the only film that was remotely to her tastes. I’m usually not a fan of crime-busting plots (I don’t think I’ve ever sat through an episode of Law & Order in its entirety) and, while re-invigorated by the 21 Jump Street reboot, the buddy-cop genres are often a recipe for predictable jokes and cringey humor. This was more or less confirmed by The Heat’s mediocre reviews, many of which explained how it didn’t live up to its Bridesmaids predecessor. Womp womp.
The previously linked Flavorwire article states in its title that The Heat is heavy on laughs, light on agenda. Ummm… yes and no.Even though Bridesmaids excelled more than The Heat on a comedic (women can be funny) and a dramatic level (all-women casts can make great films), The Heat has more of a feminist agenda than critics give it credit for. The Heat has moved past these ridiculous genre questions like “can women be funny?” and actually begun to show how women are treated by the film industry and society.
The film industry?? But I thought this was about women in the police force.
Yup, and there are some similar factors.
Take, for instance, the forced sexualization of Sandra Bullock’s character, Sarah Ashburne. Ashburne and Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) follow one of the drug dudes into a nightclub with the mission of planting a tracking device on his phone. Ashburne seems immediately out-of-place in her workplace pantsuit and demeanor. Mullins rushes Ashburne to the bathroom and starts to rip her clothes apart to make her look sexier.
At this point, we feminists in the audience might start to groan. We might think things like: Great, here we go again. Bullock needs to be sexualized in order for her to be likeable. Or: Why is Bullock getting the sexy girl treatment and McCarthy isn’t?
But in fact, this scene is a quite awesome reversal of typical female roles. McCarthy, the less attractive, overweight, more masculine character, is giving Bullock, the thinner, more conventionally pretty character, the makeover. When she’s done, Bullock asks McCarthy something along the lines of “Well, what about you? Don’t you need a makeover?” McCarthy replies, “Nah, I don’t need one.” Bullock asks why and McCarthy replies, “I can create sexuality with just the movement of my body. I don’t need the sexy clothes or the messy hair.” Bullock, “So I have to dress up for people to think I’m sexy and you can just stay how you are?” McCarthy, “I know. It isn’t fair.’
Score. A perfect jab at critics’ focus on McCarthy’s weight, including mean-spirited reviews and super feats of air-brushing. McCarthy has truly fought for her sexiness. And honestly, even though she plays a rough, wild, crude, and unfeminine character, I think McCarthy has established that she can be just as sexy as her actress counterparts, simply with her physical comedy (In fact, Mullins encounters several doting exes throughout the movie, including real-life husband Ben Falcon). I had clearly forgotten how amazing Melissa McCarthy can be– her brand of comedy can be both over-the-top and incredibly nuanced. Even as she’s throwing a gigantic watermelon at a drug dealer’s back, or slipping through car windows in order to get out of her parking space, or beating the crap out of Tony Hale, every comedic choice she makes is precise, intuitive, and effective.
Okay, fast forward a bit. Bullock successfully seduces drug man guy dude and plants the tracking device on his phone. Drug man dude whispers sexily to her, “You know, you’re the first woman over 40 who has given me a boner.”
From this point on, Bullock keeps getting targeted by her male counterparts for her age. Twice, drug man dude says, “You look older every time I see you.” Each time he says this, however, little does he know that Bullock’s got the smarts, the gun power, and the humor to combat him. He should really be paying less attention to her looks and more attention to the explosives in her backpack. McCarthy and Bullock are easily the most powerful people in any room they’re in. They’re a great duo, but they are also incredibly talented individually at their own brand of comedy/drama.
As for the plot, yes, it’s superficial. It’s simple and predictable. If you can’t spot the drug lord by the halfway point, you’ve probably been living in a television-less cave.
But like I said before, these crime plots are over-rated. A more complex plot might actually have hindered this film rather than helped it. And as far as the film’s feminist agenda goes, all you need to know is that the bad guy goes down with two shots to the crotch. I think that about says it all.