Melissa McCarthy's passion project Tammy has a surprising sadness and sweetness to it, even if it doesn't quite amount to the sum of its parts.
Tammy—co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who also directs—stars McCarthy as the titular character, a woman who, after losing both her job (at a fast food restaurant) and her husband, goes on a road trip with her grandmother Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon in prosthetic ankles. Pearl is a wild child—or, rather, a wild granny—whose penchant for boozing and cruising for guys seems at first seems like a tired riff on the old people acting inappropriately trope. Pearl encourages Tammy to drink while driving and engages in a raucous hook up with Earl (Gary Cole), a man she meets at the bar, forcing Tammy to sleep outside their motel room while she gets it on.
But as the movie goes on, Pearl takes on a tragic bent. Pearl's alcoholism and ailments aren't written off as a gag. She and Tammy are comrades not just in hijinks but in their self-destructive nature. Their alliance brings out the worst in one another. At times, that worst is amusing. Tammy's decision to hold up a fast food restaurant to bail out Pearl from jail is even funnier than it is in the trailers, thanks to a scene-stealing performance from Sarah Baker. At times, it's just sad. A drunken Pearl takes the mic at a lesbian Fourth of July party (yeah, it makes sense in context) to brutally insult Tammy.