UPDATE: Now here’s why Freaks And Geeks creator and Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig is a highly paid screenwriter, and I am not. It’s all about economizing your words. What took me three long paragraphs to convey, Feig does in this simple tweet: @Paul Feig: For his catty and school bully name-calling of the supremely talented Melissa McCarthy, I cordially invite Mr. Rex Reed to go fuck himself.
PREVIOUS: I have as thick a skin as anybody, but I must say I’m appalled by New York Observer critic Rex Reed and a review of Identity Thief where he spends all his cleverness on cruel adjectives for the weight of its star, Melissa McCarthy. Here is a woman who probably has been on the heavy side all her life, but who has developed the self-confidence to be comfortable enough in who she is that she is willing to put herself on the screen in most unglamorous ways because it serves the comedy. Having first seen her work in Mike and Molly, where she is pretty glamorous in my book, I remember being put off in early Bridesmaids trailers when I saw her wearing no makeup and looking pretty raw. When I saw that raucous comedy, I felt that, if she didn’t steal the film she came close, playing a grounded character. Her hosting gig on Saturday Night Live put on display some of the best physical comedy skills I’ve seen since the early days of Jim Carrey, Chris Farley, Steve Martin, John Candy and even Curly Howard of The Three Stooges. There are no women on that short list because I just can’t think of any. Like all those guys, McCarthy’s lack of vanity is astonishing.
When I was in college, Rex Reed was described by my profs as one of the new generation of film critics who was changing that game. I read a lot of his stuff and found his writing graceful and bold. I don’t know if he has kids, but I have two daughters. It sensitizes you to many things, including the temptation to obsess about being rail thin. All you want for your girls is that they feel comfortable in their own skin, and McCarthy is a shining example of that. Reed obviously doesn’t even consider that McCarthy is breaking boundaries and making it okay for girls all over to feel good about themselves even if, when they look in the mirror, they don’t see a waif-like Victoria’s Secret model staring back.
Now, I’m no shrinking violet; I laughed for 20 minutes this morning at the comments in Nikki’s caption contest for Jeff Berg’s Resolution Agency. Despite the charges of ageism, I hope Berg laughed, and I am not going to feel sorry for successful millionaires who are doubling down on a new venture and who are out there right now flashing cash to court every hot young agent in town. I also remember when Rosie O’Donnell got hot there for a moment as an actress, hanging out with Madonna, and I saw her on a talk show after she’d lost a ton of weight. She looked like she was starving and miserable. I felt bad for her that she didn’t realize she could make it as Rosie O’Donnell, which she found out later. Curly Howard also suffered from a poor self image, because he was a good looking guy forced to keep weight on and to shave his head for his job. We all know the kind of self-image problems that plagued Farley to his grave. McCarthy seems better adjusted than all of these people, but I don’t care who the girl is, it hurts to be insulted about your weight, or to be defined by it. If I was McCarthy’s husband, brother, father or even her agent and I saw Reed, I’d have to fight off the temptation to open a can of whup-ass on him. I’d hope that I would be smart enough to swallow that urge and instead see Reed for what he is: a tired, cranky old critic who in this case lost his basic sense of compassion. He really ought to try rising above superficial cruelty and recognize what it takes for a woman like Melissa McCarthy to overcome to become a singular talent. If the movie sucks, fine, go to town, but c’mon Rex.