Mention the word “Tammy” and “movies” in the same breath and, with any luck, the visuals that come to mind center on Debbie Reynolds’ vocal rendition of the song “Tammy,” put to exquisite use by Terence Davies in his The Long Day Closes (1992). Reynolds’ tune is that of a young girl in love and blissed out by life, as Davies does a seamless aerial pan, as though heaven is blessing him on the spot, of the young boy and everything that constitutes his immediate family and life blood: church, school and the movie theater. It’s carnal, spiritual and addictive.
Director Ben Falcone’s titual gal in Tammy is not that “Tammy” of song. Falcone’s version is a disgruntled, angry and deeply unhappy young woman who’s life is so glued up in mire that there’s nowhere to go but up. Does this Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) have the guts and inner strength to overcome her lot in life, much of which she’s brought on herself? Hint: This film stars Melissa McCarthy.
The movie doesn’t take long to create its change-or-die pivotal moment. Tammy, an employee at a chain burger joint, gets fired by her boss (Falcone), and her application of spit to the meat patties on her raucous way out of the joint loudly telegraphs her blaming nature and get-even personality.
On the way home, she wrecks her car. And, awaiting Tammy upon her untimely early arrival at the house is her husband (Nat Faxon), clearly involved with a neighbor (Toni Collette), for whom he has cooked dinner, a family gesture he’s never even extended to his own wife. Her reaction to this slight is heartbreaking. Tammy returns to her Mom’s (Allison Janney) where Tammy’s grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) lives, too. Pearl, a free spirit, is quick to spot an opportunity. Tammy needs a working car to get away and sort herself out. Pearl, who’s got a not-so-secret drinking problem, has cash and a vehicle. This is archetypal family turned upside down. Where can salvation lie other than in a badass road trip?
What transpires involves an ever changing interplay between the supposedly wiser Pearl, as in not-so-mother-of, behaving self-destructively and hurtfully towards those around her. Tammy, who’s an overgrown child herself, suddenly finds herself the adult, trying to save Pearl from herself. The role reversals are not totally believable, but symbolically these transformations underscore that Saturnine discipline and manning up, so to speak, are essential to becoming an adult, no matter how old one is. Two age-appropriate men (Gary Cole and Mark Duplass) are thrown into the mix, as is Pearl’s good friend Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her female partner (Sandra Oh), both of whom are part of a vibrant lesbian community.
Self-mastery, Saturn’s domain, is the name of the game here. Tammy is about regaining one’s center which, as it turns out, resides not in one’s proverbial home and family – through marriage or birth heritage – but within. It’s not quite Debbie Reynolds, but it will do.
Astrology Archetype: ♄ (Saturn)