The Spy Who Dumped Me: Somebody Dumped Something

Movie Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon’s star in the cinematic equivalent of a girl turd – a predictably offensive but innately apologetic piece of digested genre that’s almost funny, until you realize it stinks.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

2/5

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate MacKinnon, Justin Theroux, Gillian Anderson, Sam Heughan

Directed by: Susanna Fogel

Running time: 1 hr 56 mins

Rating: Restricted

By Katherine Monk

Women are funny. Women are smart. Women can make great movies, but The Spy Who Dumped Me is not one of them.

It’s hard to dump on something that you really wanted to like, especially when you feel it had a lot to prove. It’s like telling your child the finger painting they created looks like a piece of toilet paper once used by Paul Bunyan. You can’t do that. Ever.

Yet, the gang that ingested every spy film cliche and let peristalsis do the rest to create The Spy Who Dumped Me is not comprised of young, vulnerable children. They are grown-ups with vast pools of experience: Writer-director Susanna Fogel is a veteran TV writer and producer, so is co-writer David Iserson. Co-stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon have also logged their time, and made some big splashes along the way.

So as much as it pains me to push this out, this movie is a turd — a cute little girl poop that makes a squeak before it appears and falls silently into criss-crossed kitten-soft tissue. Predictably offensive but innately apologetic, it’s almost funny, until you realize it stinks.

Ironically, the only truly interesting thing about this movie is why it’s such a failure. The press notes explain the film was “Bond-meets-Bridesmaids,” a desire to showcase female friendships, because according to Fogel, they are “criminally under-produced.”

So as much as it pains me to push this out, this movie is a turd — a cute little girl poop that makes a squeak before it appears and falls silently into criss-crossed kitten-soft tissue. Predictably offensive but innately apologetic, it’s almost funny, until you realize it stinks.

“We have women in romantic comedies, but we don’t really see women with their friends and how ridiculous and relatable those relationships can be, and yet for many women that is the most important relationship in their life. Everyone has a best friend, and everyone loves and hates their best friend at different times in their life.”

How can you read that and not want to love this movie? Fogel is so right. Hollywood’s catalogue is so limited, Woody Allen emerges as one of the few who’s actually spent time pondering the female buddy dynamic. And that’s just creepy.

So Fogel was coming from a good place. McKinnon said she loved the script because the women weren’t fighting with each other. Indeed, Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (McKinnon) have been besties for years. They’ve shared every secret and significant life experience, so when Audrey gets dumped by her boyfriend at the top of the film — via text — Morgan feels it’s her duty to cheer her up, and together, they could burn his things.

Intercut to an exotic chase scene, with Justin Theroux doing his best Pierce Brosnan. He uses a man-scarf and a conveniently available pool ball (don’t all bazaars cater to billiards fans?) to effect his getaway.

He sends a text message as he breaks through the lathe and plaster in his apartment, revealing a secret box with multiple passports. He begs Audrey not to burn his things. She has to give them to someone named Verne in Vienna. Two more secret agents appear in Audrey’s apartment, telling her national security is at risk.

Before you can say “two women walk into a bar…,” director Fogel and company have already surrendered any chance at a novel punchline by completely submitting to form.  The set-up feels so laboured, and the denouement so plodding, that not even the comic talents of McKinnon and Kunis can soften the impact of a junk-food script, interlaced with crunchy kernels of physical comedy.

Before you can say “two women walk into a bar…,” director Fogel and company have already surrendered any chance at a novel punchline by completely submitting to form.

The big problem isn’t that it’s letting women do what men do all the time — kick ass, take names, and get the job done with one finger on the trigger. It’s that it wants to.

The Melissa McCarthy movie Spy attempted the same feat and ran into the same problems. Genre films are culturally encoded in ways we may not immediately understand. Certainly, they have played a large part in programming our understanding of gender roles, and gender, in general. So merely placing a woman in a typically male role doesn’t always reap a feminist reward. It merely means women can behave like men.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the Alien series — a hero role originally written for a man. This time, it’s not such a good thing, because they decided to give Lucy and Ethel guns. There’s a genre clash, and Fogel gets trapped between shunting trains.

The result is an ugly mangle of broken arcs and random goofball pieces covered in blood.

Boy movies get away with the moral abandon and comic mayhem by branding it “Tarantino-esque” — as though creating a label in the critical annals offers some kind of permission, on top of acceptance.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is using an old, inherently sexist, playbook, which is why it feels dogeared and tired, despite McKinnon’s perpetual puppy energy — and her earnest desire to please. She does rise above the material every so often, especially when she wears the “French clothes” and “objectifies” Gillian Anderson’s take on Dame Judi as spy matron.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is using an old, inherently sexist, playbook, which is why it feels dogeared and tired, despite McKinnon’s perpetual puppy energy — and her earnest desire to please.

In the explosive scattershot of loose comic attempts derived from greasy chunks of genre, The Spy Who Dumped Me is bound to hit the mark once or twice and make you laugh. Yet, it’s impossible to tell if the brief contentment comes from purging the reprocessed toxins through a different orifice, or the pure comic relief of wiping the mind clean. Either way, it’s a lot of hard work for a minimal splash.

@katherinemonk

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THE EX-PRESS, Aug. 3, 2018

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Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

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Summary

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Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon’s star in the cinematic equivalent of a girl turd - a predictably offensive but innately apologetic piece of digested genre that's almost funny, until you realize it stinks. Director Susanna Fogel gets points for trying to feminize an old playbook, The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn’t work. -- Katherine Monk

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