She received an Oscar nomination and a Razzie within 24 hours of each other, and for that we love her.
In 2018, Melissa McCarthy starred in three movies and one television show, while working on two more for release this year.
The woman never stops, a whirling dervish of productivity, all based out of the Atlanta, Georgia studios that her and husband Ben Falcone use while collaborating on their many productions. McCarthy is an entertainer in the truest sense of the world, a performer who wants to make people feel something when they part with their hard-earned cash to go to the cinema.
It’s what makes her dual nominations yesterday – Best Actress at the Oscars for Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Worst Actress for The Happytime Murders at the Razzies, the awards ceremony for the year’s most atrocious crimes against cinema – worth celebrating. Because they are a reminder that McCarthy works tirelessly to make us laugh.
She will try every genre and every kind of character. She’ll turn in a heartbreaking performance as a lonely writer running a scam in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and then effortlessly switch lanes to a foul-mouthed cop with a, um, puppet for a partner in the R-rated The Happytime Murders.
She does this, she told The New York Times in 2018, because she sees the value in entertainment in difficult political times. “You need to see the human experience, and you need to be able to laugh at yourself instead of just making fun of other people,” she said. “I’m not saying what we do is so important, but it’s a little stupid thing that maybe can take some of the tension off.”
McCarthy’s movies made a combined $80 million (£61.4 million) at the box office last year. Can You Ever Forgive Me? made the least money, but is the most critically acclaimed. The Happytime Murders was widely panned - “You’re in for two hours of certain hell,” The Rolling Stone wrote - and made just $20 million (£15 million) against a budget of $40 million (£30 million). Her third film, Life of the Party, about a divorcee who decides to enroll in college with her daughter, made money (about $23 million, or £17 million). Next year, McCarthy’s mob wives drama The Kitchen co-starring Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish, is already getting serious buzz.
We like watching McCarthy movies because we know that, one way or another, we’re going to feel something when we settle into that plush cinema seat with our popcorn and our soft drink.
There’s no shame in a Razzie nomination, then, because it’s a marker of the risks she’s willing to take, all in service of our entertainment. We should be thanking her: Melissa McCarthy we are not worthy.
McCarthy isn’t the first actress to have her work lauded by both the highest and lowest awards bodies in the same year. McCarthy’s co-star in The Heat Sandra Bullock accepted the Razzie for Worst Actress for the terrible romantic comedy All About Steve the night before she picked up an Oscar for The Blind Side.
Bullock actually turned up to the ceremony to accept her award, becoming only the second woman to do so. (Halle Berry, for Catwoman, was the first.) From the Razzie’s podium, Bullock challenged the voters in the room to reconsider All About Steve and her performance in it. “This is the deal I’m going to make,” she joked in her acceptance speech. “I will show up next year if you promise to watch the movie, really watch it, and really consider if it really and truly was the worst performance. If you’re willing to watch it, I will come back next year and I will give back the Razzie.”
Her other suggestion was to stand on stage with a copy of the script, reading each of her lines, and taking tips from the audience on how she could have improved her performance. “We can do this ‘til about four o’clock, or you guys can rethink your decision and have me back next year,” she joked.
All About Steve is still a bad movie, and so, too is The Happytime Murders. But aren’t we lucky that we have McCarthy and Bullock out there in Hollywood doing their absolute darndest to make us smile?