In addition to writing dynamic comedies like Bridesmaids, Wiig has also worked in dramatic roles like Skeleton Twins with veteran Bill Hader, and more recently she was even inducted into the DC film world in Wonder Woman in 1984. The breadth and depth of his career is vast and deep, and I’m always happy to see one of my favorites doing well. His latest film, Barb and Star at Vista Del Mar, is everything I love about Wiig in one film. It’s absurd, it’s complicated, it’s love, and it involves a lot of character work. Is he going to win an Oscar? No. But he will bring to all who look to him the joy, laughter and escape they so desperately need, in a world where friendship can solve any problem.
In Barb and Go To Vista Del Mar, Annie Mumolo (bridesmaids) and Wiig play their respective title characters. They’re middle-aged best friends who have already gone through a divorce and widowhood, and they realize that they need to change something when they lose their jobs at Jennifer’s Convertibles (you know, those couches that turn into a futon or a bed) and get kicked out of the Talking Club (you know, those clubs where they make hot dog soup and talk about a certain topic and Vanessa Bayer is a strict enforcer of the rules). One of their acquaintances, Mickey (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Reno 911! and Bridesmaids), tells them about Vista Del Mar, a paradise for middle-aged people in the Florida Keys, and Barb and Star are overjoyed. They pack up and come down. They meet Edgar (Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey) and are unwittingly drawn into a sinister plot by Sharon Gordon Fish (also played by Wiig) to murder all the residents and tourists of Vista Del Mar as revenge for her tragic childhood.
The film has a setting reminiscent of the plot of Dr. Evil, but without the rude and offensive moodiness that plagues the Austin Powers franchise. For me, this is where Vig shines as a writer and performer. In her work and actions, she always comes from a place of authenticity and joy. Of course they make fun of snowbirds and middle-aged women who like panties, but never by making fun of them, but by celebrating their absurdity.
All too often, ridiculous comedy is based on jokes about fat people, homosexuals, people of color or women, or extremely crude jokes about sex and farts. I love good sex jokes when they’re done right (kudos to Amy and Hope for the hilarious sex scene in Booksmart), but I’d rather watch Barb and Star try to cover for each other by making up a story about meeting a turtle.
Outline action (in the right direction!)
Wiig and Mumolo really commit to their roles, and it pays off. Their accents never slacken, their clothes match the mood, they are perfect as two naive and sweet, perhaps interdependent best friends. Dornan is an excellent choice for Edgar, who is tormented by his love interest, and he leaves behind all the self-awareness that was expected of him as Christian Grey. Other shows made me laugh: Vanessa Bayer as Debbie, the stern leader of the Talking Club, Damon Wayans Jr. as Darlie Bunkle, the spy who can’t resist leaking personal information, and of course Reba McEntire as one of the funniest uses of call-back I’ve ever seen in my life.
It’s probably Dornan who impresses me the most, as I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him in such a light and comedic role. His musical act is hilarious, his relationship with Star and Sharon is believable and funny, and he manages to retain a lot of sympathy. I wanted him to be happy! I was. I hope he gets more opportunities like this in the future, and I’m glad Fifty Shades didn’t poke holes in him.
The real theme of Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar is friendship and all the joys that come with it. There were many moments in the film, like Barbs and Star’s convoluted story about Trish, the woman with her favorite name, that reminded me of the times I laughed twice with my best friend in the car on the way to the concert we were both so excited about. The scene where Barb and Star communicate only with their eyes reminded me of the time my best friend and I looked at each other at the strange party across the street, and after a few moments we started laughing.
I don’t want to sound too dark or sad, but this movie is such a relic of the antebellum era where I could call my friends and just be myself and have someone to hang out with in incredible uncertainty. Barb and Star are my friends, and I just miss them, that’s all.
Follow on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and Anna @iamthecampion
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