Movie Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me.
There’s a solid buddy action comedy here, slightly obscured by all of Kate McKinnon’s bombastic antics.
I wouldn’t say that your enjoyment of The Spy Who Dumped Me depends entirely on your opinion of Kate McKinnon’s comedic style…but it most certainly matters. A relatively able hybrid between frenetic spy thrillers and a buddy comedy, TSWDM has a solid core of enjoyment. That core is embroidered with McKinnon’s manic mannerisms throughout. If you find her delightful, you’re going to be in for a treat. If you find her over-the-top, you’re going to be frustrated in places. It’s a shame because there’s quite a bit to enjoy on offer besides one comedians brand.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018).
Audrey (Mila Kunis) is a bit of a sad-sack who gets swept away by a handsome and mysterious stranger. When the mystery man dumps her, her loyal friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) suggests getting back at him by burning his stuff. As they prepare to set it ablaze, he reappears suddenly and reveals that he is an undercover operative and that he left sensitive intel at Audrey’s place for safe keeping. When a hit squad arrives, Audrey and Morgan have to flee to Europe with the document. Unfortunately every agency around wants the list, and they don’t have any qualms about getting rid of two Americans in over their heads.
The Mix Up.
The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t breaking new ground with the “hapless person thrown into the world of spies” shtick, but it acquits itself nicely for most of the film. It blends some really excellent action sequences that would be right at home in a true espionage film with a charming story of friendship and improbable luck. The first two thirds of the film really race along while keeping all of the balls in the air. The final act is a bit muddled, dragging in another love interest which unbalances the chemistry between Kunis and McKinnon.
Two Gals Against the World.
The strongest element in this film was the quirky and endearing friendship between the leads. One is a frumpy pessimist and the other is a wild-eyed dreamer, and they’re united by complete loyalty to each other. I liked the interplay between the two and found the middle segment where we watch them stumble into and out of danger by dint of luck and an unbreakable friendship to be the most engaging part of the film. Director Susanna Fogel‘s script shines there, but loses focus by adding a third wheel to the dynamic…and by letting McKinnon steal too many scenes.
“You’re a Bit Much.”
I had a sinking feeling about McKinnon’s performance from the first scene she appears in and subsequently mugs. We see Audrey glumly putting up with a childish birthday party for herself when Morgan comes vamping in with a microphone, strutting and preening an off-color birthday song. Oh boy, I thought, she’s going to be doing her wide-eyed, rictus-smile routine all day. Luckily she drops out of light-speed and has some really strong scenes with Kunis. She also perfectly deploys nuggets of snarky feminism that all find their target. I really enjoyed about 80% of her performance, but the 20% where she forces the humor with cocaine-era Robin Williams style antics became a distraction.
Restraint is a Virtue.
The Spy Who Dumped Me could have benefited from addition through subtraction. At nearly two hours, the story gets a bit bloated and loses focus 30 minutes from the end. Several late additions to the roster don’t gel, like the psychotic gymnast hired to kill the girls or the agency Audrey’s ex worked for (which criminally wastes the talents of Gillian Anderson!) The final love interest felt unnecessary and counter to the “just the two of us” ethos that worked so well. A bit less of the bombastic stuff from McKinnon would have been nice.
All that said, I enjoyed The Spy Who Dumped Me. Fogel impressed me early with some great camera work that refreshed quite a bit of the tried and true spy thriller elements. The pacing was pretty spot on till the end. The action sequences were way better than anticipated. There’s a shoot-out in a cafe that was gorgeous. Kunis and McKinnon are charming together, their extreme differences in persona complimenting each other. I have to say I only got such a negative reaction to what didn’t work because I was so pleased by what did. I wanted to love this movie after the strong start, instead of just liking it.