Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me
a throwback substack
Friends, go see this film.
I don't just mean, my friends; I mean, FRIENDS, those among you who are friends, who value friendship and cherish it, who long to see it centred in big flashy stories, be they heartfelt dramas or fun spy comedies, go see this film.
The plot is in the title. Audrey (Mila Kunis) has been dating some dude (Justin Theroux) for a year, only to be dumped by him via text message. Commiserating with her over this is her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) -- with whom she gets swept into explosive international spy shenanigans once it turns out that the dude she was dating (ugh, Drew, that's his name, it even SOUNDS like Dude, I'm going to call him Drewd from now on) was CIA and hiding quite a lot from her (I hate him).
I was initially put off seeing it because the trailer seemed so nakedly and exclusively about the plot: "I killed someone I killed someone!" "Stop shouting that!" Haha, funny joke, yes, I see what's going on here, a fish out of water comedy in which two women will fumble their way towards success protected by their comic innocence, sure, OK, I'll wait for it on Netflix.
The plot is NOT the film.
The film is about these two thirty-year old women who've known each other for 12 years and love each other and support each other passionately and unconditionally through everything from awkward encounters at a birthday party to dry-swallowing a flash drive full of internationally-pursued intelligence while a child-gymnast-turned-assassin prepares to torture them.
The hyperbole is the point, and the film's mode of composition. Structurally, it has a lot in common with SPY, the 2015 Melissa McCarthy vehicle I also really enjoyed, but texturally, it's completely different. SPY is playing with well-worn spy movie tropes, subverting them by centering a fat woman rolling with a lot of mean-spirited jokes but ultimately triumphing over them. THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME is first and foremost about these two women loving each other and triumphing through the strength of their shared history and devotion to each other.
I see this in fantasy, you know? The Power of Love as metaphor. Hell, I write this in fantasy. But this film isn't fantasy, and the slipperiness of tone deployed over smart genre-savviness is a big part of what had me clutching my husband in agonies of emotion. The contrast between the high-speed hijinks and the ultra-real conversations Audrey and Morgan have together is this powerfully liquid thing, versatile and gorgeous, that seems like it's going to be played exclusively for laughs but utterly isn't.
There's a moment when Audrey and Morgan are on a train. The night's speeding past them, and they're cuddled together, and Morgan's sharing a memory of Drewd -- a memory of him having been casually cruel to her (DRUDE). The cruelty was so shockingly recognisable in its smallness, the pain so unbearably real in its disproportion, and the conversation that followed -- Audrey stunned that her boyfriend hurt her best friend and her best friend said nothing, Audrey saying "you should have told me", Morgan shrugging and saying she couldn't -- is A REAL CONVERSATION I HAVE HAD, the kind of thing that gets dismissed as unimportant even as it girds our inner lives, the kind of thing I was unprepared to see on a big screen.
I cried. I felt -- as the friend who first recommended the film to me felt -- seen, and valued, and understood.
This is the film's brilliance: we say, we who love our friends passionately, that we would follow them into battle, and here we are, on screen, doing that with the power of late-night conversations and commiserating over our sorrows, bludgeoning our enemies with the weight of years of confidences and TMI and grace.
The plot doesn't matter. The Drudes of the world don't matter.
We matter, striding against the world together holding hands, and we look bloody amazing doing it.
(This initially appeared on Drip as a subscribers-only post on August 16, 2018, but Drip is going away & I am slowly porting my archives to Substack.)