The Heat (2013)

Rated R. Our ratings: V-4; L-7; S-5/N-0. Running time: 1 hours 56 min.

And let us consider how to provoke one another
to love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10.24

Mullins show what she can do to an expensive pants suit
with a pair of scissors.

2013 20th Century Fox Corp.

Director Paul Feig’s raunchy female comedy enters male buddy cop movie territory, and the results, if one can take a huge dose of vulgar language, are hilarious. It has been a long time since I have been part of a screening audience that laughed so much at the outrageous sayings and antics of the two stars.

The Odd Couple-pairing of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy was an inspired choice. Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is good at her job—she knows it and makes sure that her fellow agents know it too. As a result she is very unpopular with her fellow agents, and can count only her over-sized tomcat as a friend. If it were just a matter of skill and experience, her promotion would be a sure thing, but her boss must consider lack of social skills as well. Her advancement will depend on how well she handles her assignment to go to Boston and discover and arrest an unknown drug lord who is flooding the market with contraband.

She gets off to a bad start in Boston when she scoots into the only free parking space at the station where Det. Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) is such an aggressively over-the-top cop that even her superiors are afraid of her. As Mullins is about to back into the space she is surprised to find Ashburn’s car already there. After a hilarious follow-up in which the over-sized cop has trouble getting out of her car because of the narrowness of the space, she is enraged to find that “her” prisoner is being interrogated by Ashburn. There ensues a running series of humorous encounters in which they argue over jurisdiction. Neither wants to work with the other, but their superiors insist, and so begins the incidents in which, despite their bickering, they get to know one another. As in Identity Thief, it is during some of their quiet moments of sharing that Melissa McCarthy shows her talent as an actress capable of showing the vulnerable side of an outrageous character.

One pleasant surprise in the film is Marlon Wayans, who can hold his own in any story involving a display of outrageously vulgar humor, His straight performance as the amiable Det. Levy, sometimes serving as a go-between for the two feuding female cops, is very restrained. He is perhaps the only character in this crazy story who exhibits charm. I hope this will be the beginning of a phase in his career.

I can see feminists attacking the film as a misogynist put down of women pursuing a professional career in a male setting. Does a woman have to outdo a man in vulgarity and macho bravado to make it in “a man’s world” ? This charge is somewhat dissipated by the fact that the scriptwriter is a woman, actress Katie Dippold who also has a small role as an ER nurse. (She has already signed on for a sequel, tentatively entitled Heat 2.) From what I experienced at the screening, most viewers will not be thinking of such an issue. They will be laughing too much.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. How are the two characters similar to Oscar and Felix in The Odd Couple?

2. How does Sarah Ashburn show that competence in one’s job is not enough for success?

3. Why do you think Shannon Mullins has become so aggressive? What is her family like? At what points do we see her tender side?

4. What does each woman bring to the other that she needs? . How do you find this true among your circle of friends—that each contributes (and receives) something that complements the others?

6. How is Sarah’s cat a symbol of her life situation? How does this meaning change at the end of the film in regards to the relationship of the two women? How do the inscriptions in Sarah’s high school yearbook reveal the same thing—especially Shannon’s “sister” inscription that we see at the end?

7. What do you think of the thought that this could be taken as an anti-feminist movie?