Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Let’s go, girls.
From the moment we enter the unapologetically ma’am-core world of matchy-matchy Midwestern besties Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig), production designer Steve Saklad’s playful larger-than-life visions immerse us in the psyches of our unsinkable culotte-clad heroines, wasting no chance to hold up even mundane everyday details as a mirror.
The outsides certainly match the insides as the single gal pals while away their days in the safe embrace of their bland Kirkland Signature lifestyle, quietly worrying that life is passing them by. If they don’t shake things up soon, one imagines, they might just sink right into the neutral beiges of their cozy Nebraska hometown and become one with the Jennifer Convertibles couch they love so much.
Enter the vibrant seaside fantasia of fabulous Vista Del Mar, Florida! A breath of shrimpy, salt-sprayed air, this expansive pink-and-turquoise oasis of midlifer hedonism, in Saklad’s hands, might as well be another planet; even the brunch buffet is bursting with excitement and intrigue. It’s here, where Golden Age Hollywood glamour meets Margaritaville flair, that the pastel beach resort of Barb and Star’s fantasies transforms them, rekindling the inner “shimmer” they thought was long gone.
But it’s not just Barb and Star’s feelings and desires that are writ large in Saklad’s keen-eyed designs. The aspirational-vacay vibes of the fictional Palm Vista Hotel and stuck-in-time 1950s kitsch of its annual Seafood Jam, filmed largely and with ambitious scope on locations and soundstages in Cancún, Mexico, find their opposite in the abstractly luxe lair of the film’s nefarious mastermind, Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also Wiig).
Classic James Bond by way of Celine Dion’s gilded-goddess Las Vegas residency, the cold and cavernous space is as opulent and elemental as its mistress’s seething rage. But if Barb and Star have ensconced themselves back home in the illusory confines of easy comforts, so too has Sharon Gordon Fisherman, trapped in a fortress of solitude of her own making. That a grandiose villainess and our down-home heroines have more in common than it seems is one of the more tender revelations woven into the visual fabric of Barb and Star, a deceptively high-wire challenge pulled off to great delight. Trish would approve.
— Jen Yamato