There’s nothing original or especially clever about The Heat except the chemistry generated by Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
This is a conventional buddy picture where mis-matched cops unravel a criminal dynasty and generate some laughs along the way. Bullock plays an uptight, by-the-book FBI agent who is a loner and too much of a smarty-pants for her own good while McCarthy plays a tough as nails, grubby, potty-mouthed Boston city police detective with family problems.
The contrasts between the two are pointed, the outcome is predictable, but the movie is still fun to watch. The Heat is a crowd-pleaser and notable mainly because women characters fill the two leading roles.
It passes The Bechdel Test.
Haven’t heard of The Bechdel Test?
Alison Bechdel, creator of the award-winning, 2006 graphic novel Fun Home and the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, introduced the test against gender bias in film through a character in the comic strip, and it has gained a lot of cultural currency because it is astonishingly true!
The rules are simple and, one would think, easy for a film to pass.
(1) There must be at least two women characters (some sources add that they must be named).
(2) The two characters must talk with one another.
(3) These women characters must talk about something other than a man.
Check around if you want to read more about this. In addition to www.bechdeltest.com, there are a variety of sites that talk about the many films that do not pass the test.
Two of my favorites are clips posted by Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency, a video webseries examining representations of women in popular culture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLF6sAAMb4s and a 2012 Oscar update http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH8JuizIXw8.
So, what’s my favorite thing about The Heat?
It may be fun and forgettable, but it also passes The Bechdel Test easily.
And, while doing so, it opened second at the box office for the weekend (behind Monsters University) with solid support from audiences despite its mixed critical reception.
They are women. Hear them roar.