Not going to lie – I had my doubts about Spy, and rightfully so. I dearly love Melissa McCarthy – she’s talented, and super cute, and the world should be happy to have her around. I’ve been following her career for nearly 15 years now, and let me tell you this – wow!
That being said, she did have a few speedbumps in the past couple of years. First Tammy happened (and it’s something I wish I could unsee), and then St. Vincent wasn’t that impressive (although mostly as a whole, and not McCarthy’s performance in particular). Granted, many people praise her acting inBridesmaids, and as much as I agree with the brilliant acting part, I’m not the biggest fan of the film. The diarrhea moment grossed me out too much to actually remember anything else. So naturally, ‘from the director of Bridesmaids’ on the Spy promo posters did not sound particularly appealing to me.
And boy, was I ever happier to be proven wrong!
Spy is the story of Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a former teacher who gave up her elementary school career to become a CIA agent. She ends up being paired up with a handsome and charming Bradley Fine (Jude Law) and becomes his eyes and ears, artfully directing his filed maneuvers from the CIA’s cramped and rodent-infested bunker of an office, and having a quiet crush on him from the distance. When Fine ends up being killed by the cold-hearted Bulgarian crime heiress, Rayna Boyanov (also a Bridesmaids alum Rose Byrne), Susan volunteers to try and avenge him.
The head agent, Elaine Crocker (portrayed by Allison Janney), is not particularly enthusiastic about trusting an inexperienced agent not to screw up the whole operation, but she agrees to go with the plan when it turns out that Susan is their best shot at getting close to Rayna. She can’t, of course, take down the entire syndicate by herself , and the help comes primarily from the rogue CIA agent, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), known for having gone through just about all kinds of torture from good old guns and knives to acid burns, as well as Susan’s ‘think tank’ friend Nancy (Miranda Hart). They follow Rayna all over Europe, waiting for the right time to take down her and maybe also a couple of other bad guys for good measure.
I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly. If anything at all. I wasn’t even planning on watching it, but it was a Bank Holiday and I had about 18 hours of free time, so…
I certainly didn’t expect it to be this smart and this hilarious. I did not expect to laugh until I cried, and yet here we are! Yes, Spy was obviously a spoof, and Statham’s Ford was basically none other than a parody on all of his previous characters, combined. But it was a fun film focused on a bunch of awesome ladies that could take care of themselves and didn’t need testosterone-bearers to save them from the big bad world. McCarthy, Byrne, and Hart made an awesome dynamic trio that kicked ass left and right, only occasionally joined by men (who mostly did their best to screw things up).
Although I’ve got to admit that my favourite thing about Spy is perhaps the fact that the humor happens around Susan Cooper instead of being directed at her. Yes, as a rookie field agent, she’s often clumsy and her ‘secret identities’ are as clichéd as possible (plump cat lady, really?), but despite all that she’s never being made fun of because of who she is. And yes, the CIA has a problem with her involvement, but only because she’s inexperienced, not because she’s a woman. The lack of sexism and excessive over-sexualization of everything with breasts that is often used in the James Bond kind of films was a pleasant surprise. In fact, when Susan’s crush finally asks her out, she blows him off in favour of a girls’ night out – it’s been a long day, saving the world can be hard, so maybe some other time. And this, my friends and fellow writers, is how you create awesome female protagonists. Watch and learn!