Film Editor Sam Denyer enjoys the ridiculous ride of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a pretty unforgiving movie. It exists quite firmly outside of the bounds of normalcy, taking you on an uncompromisingly quirky ride and letting you see if you like the vibe it has to offer. A lot of people probably won’t, but if you do, then the movie will be a delight. It is an unabashedly goofy comedy, unafraid to sweep you away into a world of bizarre niceties underpinned by the absurd drama of a potentially devastating super-villain plot.
The vibe is hard to describe without experiencing it yourself. For the purposes of this review, let’s just say that Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (the writing team who previously penned Bridesmaids) star as a pair of oblivious but charming Nebraskan women who travel to Florida to step outside their comfort zones. Both are made redundant from their jobs (which they always do together, even if the other is not scheduled to work) and are banished from their talking club by Debbie (SNL‘s Vanessa Bayer) after they lie to the group, ashamed about their unemployment. Having little else to lose, they hop on a plane to Vista Del Mar, a holiday resort worlds removed from their small-town home.
Their journey and subsequent trip involve ecstatic discussions about their love for the name ‘Trish,’ imagined (or possibly real) encounters with sea turtles, life-saving culottes and a super-villain who appears to have wandered in from a Doctor Who parody shooting on the lot next door. All these antics reflect the complete commitment of Wiig and Mumolo to their ‘Midwestern nice’ schtick. It alternately baffles and beguiles everyone they encounter, a dedication to their bit which the film would fail without. One of their victims includes Jamie Dornan‘s Edgar, whose role in the deadly plot is complicated by his unrequited love for the film’s villain, Sharon Gordon Fisherman. Fisherman is also played by Wiig, whose tragic/ridiculous backstory explains her relentless bitterness as well as her lily-white skin and ultra-conservative fashion sense. She’s like if Aunt Lydia met Doctor Evil and becomes a suitably campy foil to Barb and Star. The pair are forced to stop her plot just as you would expect, but, with everything in Barb and Star, the enjoyment comes from the journey, not the destination.
Dornan’s search for love is the film’s standout thread, mostly thanks to an abrupt but ingenious musical number at the film’s halfway point. Edgar’s Prayer is hilariously literal and Dornan seems to be having the time of his life shedding the self-serious image one is inevitably saddled with after a trilogy of dreary Fifty Shades movies. It’s a set piece that wouldn’t have been out of place in last year’s Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga, a movie that also succeeds on the basis of its earnest commitment to its absurd tone and premise. The complete lack of cynicism that goes into movies like Eurovision and Barb and Star is a refreshing change of pace from the knowing winks of Deadpool-style comedies.
Of course, if you aren’t on board with any of this nonsense then you will probably consider the film to be a total disaster. It makes no overtures towards accommodating more conventional comedic tastes and only grows in absurdity the longer it goes on. A lot of jokes do not hit, even if the giddy atmosphere means that they don’t fall entirely flat. As others have also noted, the more I think about it the more I warm to it. It sinks in slowly but surely, the actors winning you over as they navigate a delightful spectrum of delirium. Like similarly whacky movies, it has cult hit written all over it with all the divisive pitfalls such a label entails. So be warned: your mileage may vary, but Hollywood rarely rolls the dice like this anymore, making gambles such as Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar well worth your time.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar will not be to everybody’s taste, but those willing to strap in for the ride will find themselves thoroughly entertained by the ridiculous spectacle that it has to offer.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is now available on VOD.