Somewhere in the first half of The Heat there is a Spanx joke. “Those are my Spanx,” Sandra Bullock pleads, her voice almost cracking. “They hold everything together!” “Why?” Melissa McCarthy demands, “what’s gonna come popping out?”
The Heat is mostly a smart, violent, foul-mouthed buddy-cop comedy, which is certainly enough for me! But in this moment it manages to make an underwear joke that is also a metaphor for Sandra Bullock’s character’s unhealthy obsessive need for control, and a commentary on the role of women’s bodies in public, in film, and in this film. Almost everything I want to say about this movie is summed up in that moment. Why do we need more women in comedy? Spanx jokes. Why does the Bechdel test tell us something? Spanx jokes. Why does it matter that Amy Poehler has kept Parks & Rec going for five years, half a decade of women-in-comedy hothouse? (Parks & Rec writer Katie Dippold wrote the screenplay for The Heat and thus…that Spanx joke.)
The whole movie is like an answer to the question: if you take off the hidden controlling “shapewear”, the invisible tool that’s meant to make an artificial shape look natural, what’s going to come popping out? Only everything amazing.