It feels like movie critics have been ripping Melissa McCarthy since she first appeared in Bridesmaids in 2011. She continues to try to be funny. They try to make her funny. She continues to try to be funny. The comedies fizzle. It seems like so much wasted time. But she can act. She’s funny, and she’s funny in I Can Only Imagine. So it should come as no surprise that it’s McCarthy who makes the first feature film this year that seems worth watching. She stars with Jennifer Lawrence and Morgan Freeman in Don’t Look Up, which is inspired by a true story from 1982.
It’s 1987. Melissa McCarthy was born into poverty in New Jersey. Already a teenager, McCarthy was sent off to homeless shelters by her poor mother, according to this real story as told in Don’t Look Up. Later she became involved with crime. There’s some relief, though. After bailing a friend out of jail, McCarthy is blackmailed by a mobster. To keep his hold on her, he makes another escape attempt, and sets up a fake suicide attempt at the same time. McCarthy’s story–and the film–takes a wild course.
You watch Don’t Look Up with mixed feelings, wondering if it’s any good. At first, it’s so dreary it’s hard to take seriously. But it ends up being very funny, and it’s very important that one must laugh in these difficult times. Nobody messes with McCarthy’s character. She goes berserk if you think she’s about to get killed. Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lawrence are fine. But McCarthy is the hero of this story.
She talks a lot about being bullied. One of the themes here is trying to overcome something you’re stuck with, despite the best of intentions. Only she doesn’t end up doing that. She gets what she wants–the film should be called Don’t Try Anything New.
I See A Woman, directed by Deepa Mehta. (Canada, India) 86 minutes. Rated PG-13. With Nargis Fakhri, Jitendra Joshi, Sunny Leone. Now playing at Cinema Village in New York.