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Knightley, Ruffalo’s ‘Begin Again’ hits high notes McCarthy back to Midwest in ‘Tammy’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif, July 1, (RTRS): Melissa McCarthy, a comedian best recognized for her full-throated and dim-witted style, stays close to home and character in “Tammy,” a Midwestern road trip that provides comic relief in a summer season largely dominated by apocalyptic action. Co-written with her husband, Ben Falcone, who also makes his directorial debut, the film tells the story of McCarthy’s Tammy, a coarse fast-food worker who loses her job, car and husband in an evening, and rashly takes off on a road trip with her hard-drinking grandmother Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon. “It’s a love letter to the Midwest about someone who wants to leave the Midwest,” said Falcone.

“But we mean it nicely,” McCarthy interjected alongside her husband ahead of the film’s Wednesday release. “Tammy,” distributed by Warner Bros., plays on the isolation and landscape of rural mid-America that both McCarthy, 43, and Falcone, 40, fled after growing up in small-town Illinois. “I was ready to go,” Falcone said about his hometown of Carbondale. “And then I leave and I’m like, ‘We should write a movie about the good old Midwest.’”

Broke, unloved and attention-starved, Tammy reluctantly takes grandma Pearl on her journey because Pearl has the car and enough cash to survive. The problem is grandma Pearl is nearly as much trouble as what Tammy just fled, boozing and chasing men through Missouri and Kentucky before Tammy decides to hold up a fast-food joint so she can bail Pearl from county jail. “Tammy” is expected to gross $25 million in its opening weekend, which would make it the top new release over the US Fourth of July holiday, according to The idea behind “Tammy” sprang to the husband-and-wife team six years ago, predating McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated role in 2011’s “Bridesmaids” and last year’s buddy cop romp “The Heat.”

“Every character I play somehow I grasp and take something from those Midwestern women that I grew up with,” McCarthy said. “There’s a no nonsense feel to them.” In both films, McCarthy plays her trademark brash, self-unaware but endearing buffoon in the same vein as Will Ferrell, a producer of “Tammy.”  “I knew all the things that Melissa could do, these characters that are larger than life but still grounded,” Falcone said. “I thought what better way, where she and I are both from the Midwest, to tap into that sort of lady we both knew growing up.” Tammy’s journey along country roads, in stifling summer humidity, eventually leads her and Pearl to ladies’ man Earl (Gary Cole) and his quiet son Bobby (Mark Duplass) with the promise for a new lease on life. “Just traveling, driving all up and down these little back roads, there are a lot of rural people in the world,” Falcone said. “And I think it’s fun to get to do a comedy that’s about people from a small town.”

“Begin Again,” the romantic comedy starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo and featuring the acting debut of Adam Levine, is off to a promising start at the specialty box office. The Weinstein Company debuted the film, written and directed by John Carney (“Once”), in five theaters and it brought in $148,325 for an impressive $29,665 per-screen average. “Begin Again” played at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival as “Can a Song Save Your Life.” It tells the story of Gretta (Knightley) and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Levine), college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York when he lands a deal with a major label. But his newfound fame soon tempts Dave to stray, and a reeling Gretta is left on her own. The first weekend crowd skewed toward women, with more than two-thirds of the audience female. That should change, TWC distribution chief Erik Lomis told TheWrap. “Guys are going to like it more than they might think going in,” he said. “It’s a perfect date movie and we think it’s going to play very well for the rest of the summer.” The reviews have been good (72 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and Lomis said the exit polls were strong. TWC’s plan is to go nationwide into 45 markets and 175 theaters next weekend and add 500 more locations the following week.

It was also a strong first weekend for “Snowpiercer,” the South Korean sci-fi action film. TWC’s specialty label Radius rolled it out in eight theaters and it tallied $165,000 for a $20,625 per-screen average.
“Snowpiercer,” directed by Bong Joon-ho and written by Bong and Kelly Masterson, tells the story of an experiment to counteract global warming that causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on Earth. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train that travels on a globe-spanning track. A class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and poor inhabiting the rear of the train. Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt star. “America,” the latest documentary from conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, connected in its debut in Atlanta and Houston. It brought in $39,000 from three theaters for a $13,000 per-screen average. The film is a sequel to D’Souza’s “2016: Obama’s America,” the No. 2 political documentary of all time with $33.4 million. Distributor Lionsgate plans to go nationwide with “America” on Wednesday, hoping to cash in on the patriotic fervor around the July 4 holiday.

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