Chick flicks, am I right? They’re so dumb and pandering, right? To be good they have to rebel against everything female-centred stories about personal relationships are known for, correct? This line of thinking strikes me as close-minded. Sometimes a chick flick with all the typical tropes, such as themes of love and friendship and multiple occurrences of girls squealing (a dreaded sound in many chick flicks but one that in this particular film makes all the sense in the world), can actually be made funny and fresh with the right actors and writers. My mission for you, if you choose to accept it, is to watch ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ regardless of your gender.
This friendship-centred comedy with an action twist stars Mila Kunis as Audrey, an average girl with a boyfriend (played by Justin Theroux) who mysteriously breaks up with her over text. When he, revealed to be a CIA agent, returns, he gives her a mission: travel to Europe to deliver an important item to one of his contacts. When that plan goes haywire, hijinks ensue as Audrey and her weird best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) get shoved between a terrorist plot and a government conspiracy with both sides looking to capture the dynamic duo and take the item for themselves.
The writing is admittedly not the most intellectual, mixing spy movie clichés with lines transparently designed to pander to a female demographic, not to mention an instance of toilet humour, but the performances bring the comedy up from below the thin surface. Kate McKinnon in particular is hilarious and her sharp delivery and exaggerated but still believable facial expressions make Audrey’s “freak” of a friend (Audrey’s word, not mine) into the kind of character I’d love to meet at a party. Kunis’s performance as Audrey is nothing spellbinding, but her skills in comedic timing are solid and her chemistry with McKinnon made me want to watch their characters’ friendship grow stronger over the course of their adventure.
This isn’t to say, however, that the writing is bad. The character arcs Morgan and especially Audrey go through are compelling, and it’s refreshing that their friendship remains positive despite their harsh circumstances, rather than the writers making the girls’ claws come out like one would expect a female friendship to be written in this kind of movie (‘Bride Wars’ being the most obvious example in the realm of chick flicks). Just when I thought the film was growing too clichéd, it threw a plot twist that was never mind-blowing but kept the story fresh and engaging.
Also of note is the use of colour in the film, with the opening scene creating a clear contrast between the action, shown through dull browns and greys, and the comedy, with brighter and warmer colours. The two start to blend in more as Audrey and Morgan become entangled in the action, allowing the audience to become accustomed to this mix of dark action film and light comedy. It also helps that the filmmakers take the Deadpool route and feature bloody violence that serves surprisingly well as comedy.
On the negative side, there is a slight structural issue in the film. While some plot points are introduced early on, others are introduced just before their resolution, making those stories less satisfying, and at least one doesn’t get resolved at all. However, it is the characters’ interactions rather than the plot that make this film a joy to watch.
‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ accomplishes its mission of blending two types of movies to make for a hilarious ride that may not be enjoyed by everyone but can certainly be enjoyed by anyone. If you have this film in your crosshairs, you should certainly give it a shot.
‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ is screening in Australian cinemas from August 9.