I was talking with my very good friend Minigan recently, and he mentioned wanting to watch Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar. This sparked within me a vague memory of a trailer with Kristen Wiig, bright colors, and the exhaustion of what I assumed would be every good joke in the movie. My expectations should have been higher. SO. MUCH. HIGHER.
Here’s the thing: I want so badly for movies like this to be good, but I am also increasingly pessimistic about anything I theoretically could like because it always gets toned down and chopped up to appeal to the masses (see: men who hate women that don’t have their tits out). So when Minigan (who I must aside here is not one of the aforementioned terrible men) mentioned this title, I was like “Oh, yeah, well, it’s only $0.99 on Amazon Prime, and it came out this year, so don’t expect it to be good.” I didn’t want to also say, “plus SNL alumni are really hit-or-miss and movies by/for women get edited into sub-par oblivion” because, like, they don’t need me to bash them–it’s going to happen without my help.
But holy shit, Dear Reader, was I absolutely blown out of the aquamarine water by how categorically incorrect I was about this five-fucking-star masterpiece of a film.
BASGTVDM brought me so much authentic joy, that I just cannot recommend it enough. I almost don’t want to post the trailer because it genuinely fails to present the genius of this movie, but here it is just so you can get a general sense of what we’re getting into:
This movie just does so many things right. First of all, visually, it is so much fun. There’s some questionable green screen work, but I can forgive almost anything in the plague times, and, honestly, it’s easy to overlook when everything else is done up so bright and colorfully. I mean, seriously, in a world where movies are so dark I legit have to turn the brightness up to see which Avenger is brooding at which, BASGTVDM was a god damned gift. And speaking of visuals, almost everyone cast in this film is legit middle aged. Even the Irish eye-candy, Jamie Dornan, is 39, and the older I get, the more I appreciate knowing the shirtless dude I’m looking at has his brain fully developed. Most of the background actors are just regular-looking people, and, get this, it’s not always played for laughs. Sure, a lot of them are dressed in over-the-top ways (the movie is set in a middle-aged, beach resort town), but I saw normal butts and stomachs in this film that were just presented as…normal.
Also things were, like, pink and teal and lime green a lot, and holy shit does that appeal to me.
But let’s get into the meat: the story. It’s ridiculous. I mean, really ridiculous. The premise of the conflict is so out there, and then when any character drops exposition (in a delightfully self-aware fashion), you’re like, “wait, how is this getting even more ridiculous?” But the plot honestly has to be this way because the theme is so soft-hearted and sweet and good that its message has to be butted up against frivolity and nonsense to avoid being too saccharine. And it does this beautifully. As a background, you have this outrageous villain with a convoluted revenge scheme that inevitably our heroines get wrapped up in, but these two women, Starbra and Barb (just Barb), have journeys to take us on that are so much more important that the evil plan has to be over-the-top to matter at all.
And these two ladies, Barb and Star, are so lovable that they make you forget Boomers have ruined the economy, the environment, and social media. They’re the epitome of everything you want humanity to be: kind, humble, supportive, and, most importantly, willing to grow. That’s pivotal to any protagonist, of course–otherwise they’re not a protagonist–but we’re presented with these two very pure transformations in really genuine ways, alike enough to compliment one another, but different enough to give each character their moment to shimmer, as they would say. They feel like SNL characters that never were because they were just too big for a five-minute skit which is usually the opposite of what happens when a skit character gets pulled onto the big screen. What I mean is, a lot of the comedy attributed to characters like this is usually very throwaway–one off jokes that never circle back and scenes that can stand alone but are very samey when lined up all together. But instead, BASGTVDM makes use of the long game with a lot of its humor. There’s fast-paced banter that you would miss if you weren’t paying attention, sure, but also seeded Easter eggs that hatch later and are elevated because they were planted in your brain to be funny from the start.
There’s also this really fantastic throughline of magical realism culminating in a deus ex machina that you really root for. The weirdness of it will slap you in the face occasionally, but you realize the presentation of a talking sea creature, seemingly random musical number, or magic pants aren’t necessarily that weird when you see the world through Barb and Star’s eyes.
BASGTVDM is also really dirty in places but is still somehow rated PG-13 (the f-bombs are super well censored), and that just warms my disgusting, little heart. So, listen, just go rent it. It’s $0.99, and it’s honestly worth so much more than that. We need more of these kinds of movies, made by women for everybody, that just really go for it in terms of eccentricity and heart. Give it a chance, and find your shimmer.