I am a film and TV junkie, and a lover of all things celebrity. Always have been. So when I heard a report on Good Morning America about the scathing and controversial review Rex Reed had given to Identity Thief, and in particular to Melissa McCarthy, I had to go on line immediately and get the scoop.
First I had to look up the source material. Rex Reed writes for the New York Observer. For any youngsters reading who aren’t familiar with Mr. Reed, he has been a movie critic since the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth (I feel a little mean saying that, but karma is a bitch Mr. Reed.) And he has been known to stir the pot in the past, most notably when he reviewed the first Sex in the City movie and said of Sarah Jessica Parker, “There’s nothing wrong with Sarah Jessica Parker, that couldn’t be cured by wart-removal surgery… It’s not a beauty mark. I guess you can’t tell a co-producer anything, but listen up, girl. At this point, you would make a wonderful Halloween witch.” From what I’ve read, Mr. Reed is not someone I would like to drink a beer with, my measure of someone as a person.
Anyway, back to Mr. Reed’s review of Identity Thief. The review itself isn’t all that controversial. By all accounts the movie is less than stellar. Way less. The controversial part of Mr. Reed’s review is the way in which he criticizes Ms. McCarthy, not just for her performance, but for her weight. In only three paragraphs he slams her four times, saying she is “tractor sized,” “a screeching, humongous creep,” and a “female hippo.” He goes on to say that Ms. McCarthy is a “gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”
I would just like to say, Rex, baby, you are a tool. Ms. McCarthy is an amazing comic. She started off doing stand up in New York while also working on her acting skills at The Actors Studio, appearing in many stage productions before moving to Los Angeles in the late 1990’s. There she joined the Groundlings, a famous LA based sketch comedy group and started appearing in movies and on TV. Most recently she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in The Bridesmaids and won an Emmy for her role on Mike and Molly. Clearly she is not just a “gimmick comedian,” but rather a skilled performer and a comic genius.
As to her weight, there is no denying that Ms. McCarthy is a large woman. At just 5’2” I am guessing that she is probably well past a healthy BMI. That being said, for Mr. Reed to make her weight a part of his film criticism is just mean spirited and hateful, especially given the way in which he described her. No one deserves that kind of vitriol. If I were a subscriber of the New York Observer, I would cancel my subscription.
In response to criticism of his review Mr. Reed has said that Universal Studios is using the controversy to sell tickets to a bad movie, (which I admit, might be the case,) and he took credit for the big box office opening weekend it had. He went on to say, “My point was that I object to using health issues like obesity as comic talking points… [McCarthy] is basing her career on being obnoxious and being overweight. And I don’t think that’s funny. I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes, and I have actually lost friends to this. I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor. I have a perfect right to say that.” Well, I for one am not buying it. If he really cared about health issues like obesity he would know that name calling is never helpful.
Ms. McCarthy hasn’t yet made a statement regarding the review, but in November she told Anderson Cooper that she was never going to be a thin starlet. “I think at 41, it just …there’s so many other things to worry about.” She has also said, “Sometimes I wish I were just magically a size six and I never had to give [my weight] a single thought… But I am weirdly healthy, so I don’t beat myself up about it –- it wouldn’t help, and I don’t want to pass that on to my girls.”
A part of me hugely admires Melissa McCarthy for being comfortable with whom she is, and for being aware of the ways in which how she reacts to her weight might influence her daughters. That being said, I find it problematic that she is not more resolved to figure out how to get to a healthy weight to best insure that she will be around for them for many years to come. She may be healthy now, but in the future she is likely to experience health problems that are in part attributable to her weight. Obesity related illnesses include, but are not limited to, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
I think Melissa McCarthy is a truly beautiful woman. Rex Reed must have been drinking when he wrote those vile comments about her. But for the sake of everyone who loves her, and the viewing public who want to see her in films for years to come, I would like to see her meet with a dietitian and a personal trainer in order to get headed toward a healthier future.