Now Playing — The Spy Who Dumped Me

spy

If the main problem with modern studio comedies is a tendency towards unwieldy narrative sprawl in the name of cramming in every mildly amusing aside captured on set, director Susanna Fogel should first be credited for her uncommon discipline with The Spy Who Dumped Me. Although it runs to nearly two hours, the film rarely feels as if it’s swamped with the flotsam of improvisational collisions. It’s tempting to attribute the bolstered focus to the presumed requirement to adhere to the storytelling rigor of the espionage-driven action thrillers gently spoofed by the film, but that didn’t make a whit of difference with Paul Fieg’s Spy. Instead, Rogel simply understands that jokes are funnier when they emanate from coherent story and consistent characterizations.

The jilted lover of the title is Audrey (Mila Kunis), a woman whose glum celebration of her thirtieth birthday is preface to a shocking discovery about the strapping fellow (Justin Theroux) who recently broke up with her via text message. He is a government agent engaged in bombastic missions, and a chintzy trophy he left in her possession hides secrets that fiercely feuding factions are anxious to attain. With the barest of instructions and a distinct lack of skills — especially in the necessary task of spinning convincing lies — Audrey is off to Europe to try and get this newfound spy material into the right hands. Luckily, she has help, in the form of her roommate and bestie, an aspiring actor named Morgan (Kate McKinnon).

Fogel handles the film’s many action sequences — including shootouts and car chases — with solid craft, bringing a clarity that eludes supposed masters of the form. (This is where I type out the name Michael Bay, affix a hyperlink in the appropriate place, and then shudder.) Her real strength, though, is in the more basic moments. She provides the space for Kunis and McKinnon to develop a real rapport, effectively depicting the rhythm of well-worn friendship. As usual, Kunis is natural and charming, with a crack comic timing that never pushes into eager jokiness. And McKinnon is something else entirely. Vividly alert to every moment, her words are like mercury, shifting and melding in ways simultaneously unpredictable and logical, making nearly every line reading a little discovery.

There might not be a lot of layers to The Spy Who Dumped Me, despite some stabs at an lesson in empowerment. The surface of it is still satisfying, all polished and bright. Dumped is a keeper.

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