Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
In a way essential to the movie*? (*see the Bottom Line in the Score section for an explanation) [why this matters]
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)
IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? Yes (Anne Fletcher) (does not impact scoring)
IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)
BOTTOM LINE: All the positives that come from having both a female protagonist and a female antagonist get negated by how these women are ridiculed for their gender throughout the film: this “humor” is everything the movie is about. The entirety of Sofía Vergara’s character is about making fun of her as a caricature of femininity, from her too-tight wardrobe to her too-high shoes to her wailing almost equally with grief over her newly dead husband and her being mistaken for older than she is. The entirety of Reese Witherspoon’s character is about her not being taken seriously as a police officer because she is small and blond and cute, which encompasses the suggestion that it is unreasonable for her to be angry when she is dismissed because she is small and blond and cute. (The movie utterly fails to appreciate that she goes overboard as a stickler for police procedure precisely because she is not taken seriously. But she gets ridiculed for being a stickler, too.) Catty pettiness between women is also a source of supposed amusement, as when Vergara belittles Witherspoon for being unmarried, and for wearing unsexy underwear. It’s all an unwitting example of how our culture insists that women walk a fine line in all things — don’t be dumb but don’t be too smart; don’t be too sexy but don’t be too dumpy; don’t be incompetent but don’t be too competent, either — and yet still somehow never manage to actually achieve the correct balance. The movie does not, however, see it as wrong for women to have to play this game; it merely delights in their losing the game without acknowledging or even realizing that there is no way to win.
NOTE: This is not a “review” of Hot Pursuit! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Hot Pursuit.