Her day starts bad when she runs over a deer, and only gets worse as she loses her job and discovers her husband is cheating with a neighbor. Not that the eponymous Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) has much of a dream life to begin with—as this tonally scattershot but still bracingly sour comedy is quick to point out. Bad luck and bitterness run in Tammy’s blue-collar family, especially in her acidic grandma, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who always has a whiskey bottle at the ready to drown her sorrows and wash down her illegally acquired codeine. Tammy’s latest setback inspires the duo to take a healing road trip to Niagara Falls, though it isn’t long before the insults fly.
As is the case with many tart-tongued Hollywood comedies these days, sentiment lies in wait. (Tammy grimaces broadly at Grandma getting busy in the back seat in one scene, then sincerely bemoans her existence in another.) Yet the life lessons are wedded to a much more idiosyncratic story than you might think. McCarthy’s star power—solidified by the foul-mouthed farces Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013)—have earned her carte blanche to do as she wishes with this passion project, which she and husband-director Ben Falcone nurtured over several years.
They have little feel for the technical side of filmmaking; the imagery is flat and the editing amateurish. Most shots seem held for a beat too long or too short, wreaking havoc with the comic rhythm. Nonetheless, McCarthy and Falcone’s attempts to make Tammy more flesh-and-blood than a figure of fun are often poignant, as in a scene in which our down-and-out heroine gets a tough talking-to from guest star Kathy Bates (making the most of her role as Pearl’s worldly lesbian cousin). For all its failings and flailings, there’s plenty to admire in this oddball star vehicle.
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