Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar


Directed by Josh Greenbaum and written and starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar is the story of two 40-something best friends who go on a vacation to Vista del Mar in Florida after losing their jobs where they have fun and meet a man unaware that he’s a spy carrying a mission for a woman who wants to wreak havoc on the place. It’s a film that follows two women who are lifelong friends as they hope to find joy in this vacation as well as unexpected events and a plot that would have them take control as both Mumulo and Wiig respectively play the roles of Barb and Star. Also starring Jamie Dornan and Damon Wayans Jr. Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar is an absolutely insane, idiotic, and outlandishly hilarious film from Josh Greenbaum.

The film is the simple story of two 40-something women who work and live together as they both lose their jobs as they decide to go on a vacation through a suggestion of an acquaintance of theirs unaware of a secret plot involving a madwoman who wants to destroy this place that caused her all sorts of emotional pain many years ago. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it play into the many typical clichés expected in a film where people go on a vacation and hoping for some fun in the sun yet writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo go into places that is way out there in terms of what is considered unconventional as well as just add a dosage of low-brow humor into the mix. The result is messy but it has this odd tone that makes it endearing due to the fact that the main protagonists in Barb and Star are these somewhat dim-witted yet heartfelt ladies who just live to have fun, have a few drinks, wear these pants known as coulettes, and be completely silly.

Upon their arrival to Vista del Mar in Florida, they meet a British man named Edgar (Jamie Dornan) unaware that he’s really a spy working for a madwoman named Dr. Lady (Kristen Wiig) who hopes to destroy Vista del Mar because of what happened to her as a teenager many years ago by unleashing a swarm of killer mosquitoes. Yet, Edgar is hoping that the mission succeeds so that he and Dr. Lady becomes an official couple yet finds himself falling for Star and questioning what he is trying to do. Adding to the chaos is Barb’s own quest for adventure as well as the fact that Barb and Star talk constantly in their Midwestern accent and are often oblivious to what is happening around them as it adds to the film’s offbeat tone.

Josh Greenbaum’s direction is all over the place in terms of what it wants to be yet it somehow manages to work because of how insane the script is in its approach to offbeat, low-brow humor. Shot on various locations in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with additional locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico as Nebraska, the film opens with a young kid (Reyn Doi) being a paperboy as he’s singing to Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s Guilty as it sets the tone for what is to come where it gets dark upon the appearance of Dr. Lady and who this young kid and it then cuts to Barb and Star at work shoulder-dancing to Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman. It is among these moments that showcase a film that isn’t going to this traditional vacation film mixed in with a spy thriller as the scene where Barb and Star arrive at the Vista del Mar hotel is presented as this lavish musical number. The usage of wide and medium shots do help with the musical numbers that include another one from Edgar as Greenbaum knows when to create some unique compositions that do pay tribute to musicals while keeping everything else simple. Even in intimate moments where characters are in conversation as it feature bits of humor including some of the most fucked-up moments that include a crab with the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Greenbaum also play into this realm of absurdist humor as it relates to Dr. Lady as she does have this strange back story that is weird in itself while the absurdity continues into a man Dr. Lady hires in Darlie Bunkle (Damon Wayans Jr.) who does a poor job in hiding as he tries to relay information to Edgar. The film also play into elements of surrealism yet Greenbaum keeps it to a minimum in favor of focusing on the friendship of Barb and Star as well as the chaos they find themselves in. Especially in the film’s climax where it is thrilling yet there is this odd sense of humor to it that is insane while not being afraid of being low-brow as it also has this what-the-fuck moment that is baffling but endearing. Overall, Greenbaum crafts a weird, imbecilic yet outrageously funny film about two women in their mid-40s going on a vacation where all hell and hilarity ensue.

Cinematographer Toby Oliver does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its vibrant usage of colors for the scenes of Vista del Mar in the daytime/nighttime scenes as well as some low-key lighting for the interior scenes set in Nebraska and at Dr. Lady’s lair. Editor Steve Welch does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some stylish jump-cuts and montages as it play into absurdist tone of the film. Production designer Steve Saklad, along with set decorator Mariana Castaneda and art director Rafael Mandujano, does amazing work with the look of the Vista del Mar hotel as well as the hotel rooms and some of the exterior locations as well as the quaint and kitsch home of Barb and Star. Costume designer Trayce Gigi Field does fantastic work with the costume in the design of the coulette pants as well as some of the cheesy clothes that Barb and Star wear and the clothes that Dr. Lady wears.

Special makeup effects artist Stephanie Pasicov, along with makeup artist Malinalli Contreras and hair stylist Lizeth Correa, does brilliant work with the look of Dr. Lady as well as the hairstyle that Barb and Star have. Visual effects supervisor Nicholas Hurst does terrific work with some of visual effects for a few action-suspense scenes as well as a few funny moments in the film as it is mainly set dressing. Sound editor Nancy Nugent and sound designer Jon Title do superb work with the sound in the way some of the parties sound as well as the sounds of oceans from the hotel rooms and in some of the sounds inside Dr. Lady’s lair. The film’s music by Christopher Lennertz and Dara Taylor is wonderful for its mixture of suspenseful orchestral music, kitschy jazz, and island-based beach music along with some original piano songs by the comedy-music singer Richard Cheese with songs about boobies and such while music supervisors Julianne Jordan and Justine von Winterfeldt provide a fun music soundtrack featuring Barbra Streisand with Barry Gibb, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Pitbull, and many others including some original songs including the lavish musical numbers.

The casting by Allison Jones is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Gerry Bednob as a motel owner, Michael Hitchcock as the Vista del Mar hotel concierge, Ernesto Godoy as a guy in a speedo, the trio of Nevada Arnold, Elizabeth Kelly, and Ariana Gancicova in their respective roles as the three-year old, seven-year old, and thirteen-year old Dr. Lady, Karen Maruyama as a caricature artist, Kwame Patterson as the hotel bartender, and Mark David Jonathan as his musical persona Richard Cheese. Other notable small roles include Wendi McLendon-Covey as Barb and Trish’s friend Mickey who suggests they go to Vista del Mar, the quartet of Vanessa Bayer, Fortune Feimster, Rose Abdoo, and Phyllis Smith as a group of ladies Barb and Star have important conversations with that are often comical with Smith’s character wanting to talk about horses, and Reyn Doi as the young paperboy named Yoyo who plays an integral part into the film’s unique plot.

Damon Wayans Jr. is fantastic in his small role as the spy Darlie Bunkle as someone who tries to make sure Edgar does his job though he does a terrible job in trying to do disguises and hide himself in awkward ways. Jamie Dornan is incredible as Edgar as a spy who goes to Vista del Mar to oversee the mission yet finds himself falling for Star where Dornan doesn’t just show that he is really funny but also can sing and dance in a weird yet exhilarating musical number as it showcases that there is a lot more to him than just being attractive. Finally, there’s the duo of Annie Mumulo and Kristen Wiig in their dual respective roles of the titular characters as these two women from Nebraska with these weird accents and they talk in a certain rhythm and say silly things as they just provide a lot of wit and endure their own individual adventures as Mumulo and Wiig are just so hilarious to watch while Wiig also brings a lot dark camp to her role as Dr. Lady in this strange and chilling performance that has Wiig just being downright weird for all of the right reasons.

Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar is an absolutely fucked-up and insane film from Josh Greenbaum that for some strange fucking reason not only works as a comedy but it’s also a film that refuses to be defined as anything which makes it work. Thanks in large part to the performances of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo along with their outlandish and far-out screenplay as well as gorgeous visuals, offbeat gags, wild musical numbers, and a supporting cast including a hilarious Jamie Dornan. It is a film that not only refuses to take itself seriously but manages to embrace all sorts of low-brow and surrealistic humor that will baffle many yet also has a lot of heart. In the end, Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar is a sensationally fucked-up film from Josh Greenbaum.

Josh Greenbaum Films: (The Short Game) – (Becoming Bond) – (Too Funny to Fail)

© thevoid99 2021


Often Off Topic said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I had one hell of a weekend watching this one night and Willy's Wonderland the next. I hope Jamie Dornan lands some more comedy roles soon because he's had a run of bad luck and he was genuinely great in this.

Brittani Burnham said...

Kristen Wiig alone makes me want to avoid this but it does seem slightly intriguing. Maybe one day I'll check it out.

Ruth said...

I'm not sure about this one but might give it a shot if it's free on streaming. I remember seeing Dornan in the trailer and was intrigued, I think he's more hilarious than sexy so good to see him in a comedy. Absurdist humor is a hit and miss but when it worked it can be a lot of fun.

thevoid99 said...

@Often Off Topic-I would totally be on board to see Jamie Dornan doing comedy because he's a natural at it. Him kicking his feet on the sand, dancing, and twirling around. I was like "the fuck?" but I couldn't stop smiling. This film is fucking insane but for the right reasons.

@Brittani-I'm not sure if you'll be into Wiig doing a Nebraskan accent or just being weird as fuck but... I wouldn't want to avoid this as it's a shame this won't be seen in theaters. If it was shown in theaters with a large audience, the laughter will be fucking loud.

@Ruth-This is one of those films where you just turn off your brain and just let it flow. You'll be baffled, you'll be dumbfounded, you'll feel like you just been walloped by something really fucking stupid yet you're going to end up smiling because of how fucked up it is.