By Joan Ellis
In the now familiar summer movie desert, here are two that fly under the studio hype.
They are so wildly different, one from the other, that it’s unlikely anyone will like both, so consider carefully before deciding which would give you a nice summer evening.
Female cop buddies take on a drug lord in a series of ludicrous maneuvers in a plotless movie – a slash-and-burn field day for any critic. If I then report that it is a good-natured movie and that audiences are laughing at visual and verbal invective, insult and foul language, you are right to think I’m crazy. But what can I say? I had a very good time.
The whole movie is a landscape for Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as they fight their way to friendship. Buttoned-up FBI agent Ashburn (Bullock) and motormouthed Boston cop Mullins (McCarthy) become reluctant partners. Trading insults and jokes that Hollywood has been too timid to touch, the two cops argue their way from a lousy beginning to a happy ending.
Scriptwriter Katie Dippold has written a script that is a wacky exaggeration of the unacceptable, and it triggers bursts of laughter. Men are incidental here. The movie belongs to two foul-mouthed, funny female cops. You may enjoy a black velvet picture of a sneakered Jesus hitting a home run in Fenway Park.
This is an unapologetic dive into sentimentality with one redeeming feature. The vulnerable buttons of death, cancer and old age are pushed repeatedly and without mercy. The redemption is delivered by Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp and Gemma Arterton. As the choir director, Arterton gives a lovely performance that is laced with understatement and perception.
Marion (Redgrave) is dying of cancer and will sing with her choral group until her last breath, in spite of her gloomy, negative husband Arthur (Stamp). What triggers tears here is not the obvious, but the subtleties that Redgrave and Stamp use to create the depth of a lifelong marriage. Marion has had such faith in life, Arthur none at all. Opposites since the day they met, they have made it to the finish line with love. Redgrave and Stamp, with skill and complexity, make us understand why.
You will undoubtedly cringe in embarrassment at writer/director Paul Andrew Williams’ overcooked manipulation of the audience, but isn’t there real pleasure in watching two acting greats overwhelm maudlin material with subtlety?
If you shed a tear, it won’t be because the movie is a good one; the director saw to that. It will be because the sight of these two actors still capturing our emotions in their old age is moving in itself. If they don’t reach you, you may have a heart of stone.
And so, you will laugh in The Heat and cry in Unfinished Song. Knowing which you want to do on a hot summer night will tell you which movie to see.
‘Heat’ Rated R – ‘Unfinished Song’ Rated PG-13
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.