In the past, Hollywood has arbitrarily declared “The Year of the Woman” in attempts to address the issues in the largely patriarchal film industry.
It’s starting to look like 2015 might be the first truly legitimate Year of the Woman as movies for, by and about women are dominating the box office.
And I’m not just talking about targeted movies that hang a “Girls Only” sign on the clubhouse door like “50 Shades of Grey.” There is crossover appeal aplenty with examples like “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which is one of the most feminist action movies ever to come down the pike, “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” which continued the trend of dystopian heroines and “Pitch Perfect 2,” which is on pace to be one of the highest-grossing comedies ever directed by a woman.
Adding to this year’s feminine mystique is the hilarious action-movie sendup “Spy” starring the seemingly unstoppable Melissa McCarthy.
“Spy” was written and directed by Paul Feig, who has built his career around female-driven comedies like “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat.”
Feig knows how to toy with convention as he brings his sensibilities to the most misogynistic of genres where women are there only to be rescued or seduced.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who goes from jockeying a desk to saving the world from a rogue nuclear bomb.
Reluctantly sent into the field by her boss (Allison Janney in yet another awesome, scene-stealing appearance), Susan is told just to observe and report, but she turns out to be much more effective than anyone could have imagined.
The men in her life are either oblivious to her, like superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law, playing the stereotypically suave international man of mystery to the hilt) or openly hostile, like extreme agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham in an uncharacteristically hilarious performance as a character who is all gusto and no brains).
Even the movie’s femme fatale Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne in a dependably solid turn) has a solid character arc as she goes from formidable to (almost) sympathetic.
But while I could go on about how this movie is a continuation of Hollywood’s shifting dynamics in regards to the roles of women, what matters most about this movie is it is very, very funny.
Feig understands McCarthy is at her best when playing either mousy and underappreciated or a profanity-spewing unstoppable force of nature. As Susan, she gets to shift between both and gives one of her best performances.
I also have to mention Miranda Hart, who plays Susan’s only friend and fellow analyst. This is one of those breakout performances as Hart steals scene after scene. You are going to see a lot more of this fast-talking, sharp-witted Brit.
What’s great about “Spy” is it acts like its progressive comedic take is no big deal. It lets you imagine a world where a female-driven movie is no more or less remarkable than a male-driven one. That’s a pretty cool (and funny) world to live in.
“Spy” is rated R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content, including brief graphic nudity.