The Heat ★★★½

Sheryl Sandburg
Meets Mae West
And these fuckin' bitches
Have it all.
Watch your dicks, bros.

In Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock played an FBI agent who was extremely competent at her profession, yet lacked any sense of traditional femininity. Order was resolved through her learning how to perform her gender via a beauty pageant and regain her status as a "woman." The early scenes of The Heat feel awfully familiar to those who know the previous film, with Bullock as a highly competent but actively disliked FBI agent in an otherwise exclusively male world (side note: the film takes place in Boston, but the credits give us tedious shots of the NYC skyline which only factors into the film during the first 10 minutes). Thus enters Melissa McCarthy as Mae West reincarnated, a woman brimming with self-confidence who has no standards whatsoever for what is "proper" woman-ness of any type.

Pairing these two opposites has been a long standing tradition of male comedy, but the film negotiates a careful line of expressing femininity while never being about a particular brand or style except one: stop trying to fit into the world of men and instead express yourself in the way you want. There are very minor discussions of boyfriends, but the film's focus allows these women to actually bond via profession and lifestyle instead of their relationship to a world of masculinity, and in two scenes in particular, brilliantly tears apart any notion of the Bechdel test: the two examine and ogle the various guns McCarthy has acquired (with much more emphasis on particulars than De Niro and Jackson in Jackie Brown) and then after the climatic sequence, the two discuss how and when it's okay to shoot a man in the dick. It's not that the film is against a Sheryl Sanberg-type of feminism, but it sneakily expresses a inclusive form of feminism not usually prompted by Hollywood films, much more than Bridesmaids's emphasis on female friendship in rather rote ways. Here the vulgarity is not a sideshow to something "important"; vulgarity is celebrated through feminine physical comedy that doesn't necessarily mock the body from their inability to handle a situation as much as their arrogance to keep going despite the impossible tasks (Bullock charging through a hospital on a wheelchair has a Harold Lloyd-esque vibe to it). It even solves it's small romantic subplot in a sneakily way of a man and a woman acknowledging each other as equals, a true true rarity.

Did I also mention this film is absolutely fucking hilarious? There's a scene involving a phone book that made me laugh harder than anything else this year. Yes it's sloppy at times, questionably edited,* and poorly paced, but there are enough laughs (favorite gags: watermelon, the stolen cat, the Albino, the knife, the captain's balls) to sustain it's running time and then some. I don't care too much about the rest - I had more fun with this than any other action blockbuster and as truly engaged by its gender discourse.

*There is one totally egregious job of editing I have to mention (and I don't mean editing in terms of "cut this whole scene" - that's not the same thing). When Bullock first confronts the pimp and then McCarthy barges in, pissed that she has her suspect, we are clearly shown McCarthy slamming the door before they fight. In the next three shots, they fight before the captain rips McCarthy off her. How did he get in? We can assume he opened the door and grabbed her, and yet no one in sound mixing bothered to put that sound in. Real shoddy work that someone should have fixed.

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