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The reviewer who called Melissa McCarthy a female hippo

Clem Bastow
Published: February 13, 2013 - 12:00AM

Something truly amazing happened this week: Rex Reed returned from the dead!

Well, figuratively speaking: I wasn't aware the film critic had done much of worth since appearing in storied failure of cinematic good taste Myra Breckinridge back in 1970, but it turns out he's still churning out film criticism for The New York Observer.

Sadly for him, the Observer isn't on my go-to list when it comes to film criticism, so his pannings have been a mere background hum to the fine work of more considered writers like The New York Times' A. O. Scott and Time's Mary Pols. In fact, I daresay that's the case for many film buffs, which is perhaps why Reed decided to remind us all of his existence in such a manner.

I am referring to his “review” of the new comedy Identity Thief, which opened this past weekend (at the top of the box office, it should be noted), in which he spewed such witticisms as “Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success” and referred to the Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress as “[a] female hippo”.

He was promptly taken to task by the entire internet - and entertainment industry - with the highlight being Bridesmaids director Paul Feig's tweeting: "For his catty and school bully name-calling of the supremely talented Melissa McCarthy, I cordially invite Mr. Rex Reed to go f--k himself".

(In a moment I must genuinely have blocked from my memory, The Hollywood Reporter reminded everyone that Reed last emerged from his puddle of bile when Sex And The City made the jump to the big screen in 2008 and he led into his review with, “There's nothing wrong with Sarah Jessica Parker, that couldn't be cured by wart-removal surgery. That growth on her face just gets bigger with every close-up”. As THR's coverage went on to note, “Parker had the mole removed several months later”.)

So, it has to be asked, is this sort of public instance of misogynistic rhetoric the new “flashing an awards ceremony” or “getting drunk on a plane” (etc) when it comes to men who've realised their relevance is issuing its death rattle?

Because it's been a banner few months when it comes to casual misogyny served up by the desiccated remains of the old guard, who appear to have settled on a method of reviving their flagging notoriety by lashing out at the nearest successful woman.

We have Reed's spew above. Before that, there was novelist Bret Easton Ellis - last spotted doing anything of worth back in the mid '80s - unloading on Twitter about director Kathryn Bigelow ("a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man but since she's a very hot woman she's really overrated”), then issuing the least sincere apology in recent memory: “[D]id I have to finally admit that I went too far sometimes?"

Ellis had a hand in another sick-making “buzz” piece, the recent New York Times Magazine feature, "Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie". Designed as a cautionary tale about the now-uninsurable actress, it detailed the making of the Ellis-penned film The Canyons, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Lohan and porn star James Deen.

Schrader wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, and has written and/or directed a series of decreasingly notable (if occasionally critically appreciated) films since then, his recent work including the ignominy of being fired from a 2003 Exorcist prequel and replaced with Renny “Cutthroat Island” Harlin.

Now, I'm not suggesting Lohan's behaviour of late has been admirable, but the impression I got from the Times Magazine feature was of a group of older men having a go at a young woman with serious problems in order to gussy up some frisson for their certain-to-be-appalling movie. There were even moments where it appeared, despite being under pharmaceutical duress, Lohan was far better at her job - and the game - than anyone behind the camera, such as this passage in which the beleaguered production faced location fees it couldn't afford:

“Schrader and Pope were debating what to do next. Lohan suggested shooting the scene at the Grove, a tony West Hollywood shopping center. “Look, we can shoot at the Grove, and we can get it for free.” Pope looked at her with confusion. “We'll have 'Access Hollywood' pay for it. They'll film it, I'll answer three questions about the movie and then they'll pay for it. It's really easy.” [...] A few days later, Schrader and Pope, having decided on a more conventional approach, filmed Lohan at the Century City Mall, paying $3000 for the privilege.”

But why write a piece about a once-talented actress's sad slide into addiction when you can frame it as her being the human tornado who nearly derailed the movie, and get a bunch of Old Boys to sound off in the process?

If there's one encouraging thing we can take away from these repeated bilious emissions from hateful blokes in the media, it's that with each outburst they seem to get away with less and less; retribution and disdain from those who appreciate simple human decency comes swiftly in the social media age.

So maybe next time Rex Reed decides to sound off about actresses who are making much more money and receiving more accolades than he could ever imagine, it'll be three strikes and yerrout.

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