The Heat

Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy
In UK Cinemas from July 31st, 2013

By Jenny Donoghue

If you loved the film Bridesmaids, you’re in for a treat this summer with The Heat. The classic buddy cop genre gets a hilarious new twist with a cast of kick-ass women. Parks and Recreation’s Katie Dippold makes her feature length film writing debut with a laugh-a-second script, delivered with perfect timing and charming chemistry by The Heat’s stars Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. The comedic all-star cast is rounded out with appearances from Michael Rapaport, Marlon Wayans, Tony Hale, Bill Burr, McCarthy’s real-life husband Ben Falcone, Saturday Night Live’s Jane Curtain and Taran Killam, and Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre’s Jamie Denbo, Jessica Chaffin and Chris Gethard.

Director Paul Feig is at the helm of The Heat after his success delivering Bridesmaids. Chatting at the film’s London premiere, Feig revealed his choice of female-led comedies is deliberate and he hopes to see others in the industry follow suit, dubbing the duo of McCarthy and Bullock as “Rush Hour times ten”.

“I love funny women. I felt like for so long I wasn’t seeing funny women in movies being able to show off everything they can do and I just really wanted to right that wrong. Hollywood’s still not caught up. There should be many more movies like this and there should be many more funny women who are big stars. So I’m just trying to chip away at the stone as much as I can. But I want other people to join in and help me. I want other people in Hollywood to do the same thing.”

Director Paul Feig introducing the London premiere with star Sandra Bullock.

Feig, who began as an actor-turned-writer himself with the cult-hit US television series Freaks and Geeks, is enjoying the transition from directing for television (Freaks and Geeks, The US Office, Arrested Development) to film.

“I really like movies because it’s a little more of a challenge to be able to tell a story effectively in like an hour and a half, two hours. So I find it the most fun. And on a TV show you’re working for other producers, I have a little more control as a movie director.”

Feig’s television work is frequently praised for its poignant behavioural comedy. I asked him about the process of bringing his compelling realistic style to the broad buddy cop genre for The Heat.

“As long as you have the actors treating it very honestly and not making fun of the characters, really loving the characters, then you can do it and you can play around. They inhabit the characters so realistically that then I can just throw surprises at them and it feels very natural and real.”

That realness shines through in this film, lending a lot of heart and touching sentimental moments that humanise the characters while taking nothing away from their hilarious behaviour. Characters that could easily be sacrificed to lazy caricature are grounded with very relatable human motives, like McCarthy’s love for her brother and struggle to do what’s best for him, and the loneliness Bullock carries into adult life after growing up as a foster child. Bullock and McCarthy play the two prickly women, characters who could easily be unlikeable, with a warmth and charm that instantly wins me over.

Sandra chats with us on the carpet.

Bullock was full of that charm at the London premiere, answering our questions with her signature warmth and allowing a few of those goofy laughs that make everyone want to be her friend to break through her gorgeous polished appearance as she expressed her love for co-star McCarthy, who she called, “my hottest co-star of all time” and “a kindred spirit.”

Their chemistry, evident in the movie, was apparent from day one, according to their co-stars, Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin, better known to some as the duo Ronna and Beverly, who said, “they just have incredible chemistry, they had it from the moment they got on set together. And they’re super nice ladies.” The duo said working on the film was “the most fun we’ve ever had.”

Bullock agrees. Saying, “It was heaven. It’s what you’re longing for when you get scripts and everyone says oh this is funny and you read it and it’s not. You just assume you’re not gonna get the kind of comedy you wanna do, but now it’s here. It’s exciting.”

“You do it for the joy. They’re harder to make but when you land a comedic moment or a joke or something that makes an audience laugh, you know it right away and it’s immediate gratification. Versus you do a drama and someone in the editing room helps you, emotions help you. There are all these elements that help enhance your performance. Whereas if you don’t nail a comedic performance you know it right away. So there’s a satisfaction you get that you don’t get in dramatic roles. You don’t do it for an award, you just do it because it makes you feel so good when it works.”

She even answered a question in German about her character in The Heat, FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn.

“I like that no one likes her. I like that she can be rude and annoying and you don’t have to be pretty, you don’t have to talk about shoes, you don’t have to talk about getting a boyfriend. She loves her work, she loves what she does and she makes no excuses. She doesn’t care that no one likes her. She doesn’t even realise no one likes her. It’s fun to play unlikeable characters like that.”

Writer Katie Dippold thrilled to be at the London premiere for her first feature.

The Heat’s writer, Katie Dippold, of the UCB Theatre and television’s MADtv and Parks and Recreation was excited to be at the London premiere of her first movie. “I’m thrilled,” she said, looking delightful glammed-up for the carpet. “I’m very excited about it. It all happened really fast and I was very lucky with the timing. I was the luckiest writer in the world.” Echoing Feig, she said writing a female-led comedy was intentional, “There’s so many hilarious comedian actresses out there. There’s so much stuff you can do.”

I love to hear a cinema of people laugh out loud and The Heat had no shortage of those moments. Its comedy runs the gamut from broad physical gags amid action sequences to character driven one-liners…there’s even a cheesy pun! I particularly enjoyed a reckless drinking sequence where Bullock’s uptight character really lets go, and McCarthy’s unflinching pursuit of a terrified Tony Hale. A masterfully composed movie, there were so many laugh-out-loud lines some scenes had me chuckling at every line.

At just under two hours The Heat feels a little on the longer side, but none of that time is wasted. Every moment is filled with smart silly heartfelt comedy. Almost every joke hits perfectly and the lines feel fresh and fun.

This could be due to director Feig’s embrace of using improv on set. Writer Dippold said, “I hoped that improvisers would get cast in it because I love improv. Paul Feig loves an improv friendly set, so everyone is encouraged which is great. I just think that makes it so much better.” Denbo and Chaffin added,

“Paul’s an amazing director and one of his greatest assets is he knows how to harness improvisers and get the best out of them. And when you have people who work that well together it’s amazing that he was able to control us and get the best out of us at the same time. There’s so much that didn’t even make it into the movie that’s really funny.”

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be a bit desperate for the bathroom after two hours, but you won’t regret a minute laughing your pants off at The Heat. With such solid comedy and such full, amiable characters, I can hear the sequel coming already.

If you’re not already sold, I’ll leave it to the words of Denbo and Chaffin, when asked what they’d say to someone on the fence about The Heat:

“Do you like comedy? Oh, no? You don’t like comedy? That’s okay. Do you like action? Oh, no? You don’t like action? Wait, do you like buddy movies? Do you care about yourself at all? If you do, get off your ass and go laugh for two hours.”

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