5 Screenwriting Takeaways From the Joyous Trippy Adventure That Is 'Barb and Star'
March 1, 2021
It is undeniable that we are all jonesing for adventure, friendship and love right now while we live a lockdown life with masked and limited interaction. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Pack your culottes and sunscreen, because these ladies will take you to Vista Del Mar (an invented magical location in Florida where you can find your shimmer).
Here are five screenwriting takeaways from a movie that breaks all the rules, because sometimes, well, heck, that’s just really fun to do.1. Embracing Middle Age. This is one of the great joys of Barb and Star: Middle age is embraced. It’s sometimes made fun of, yes, but overall, Barb and Star — Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, respectively, who also co-wrote the film together — are good role models for embracing where you are in your life in the moment (something that still feels all too rare for this age bracket in Hollywood). It’s not often that girls with flat butts, crappy jobs, and who define success and fun as overindulging in Triscuits get to lead a movie, but that’s just who Barb and Star are! They also get to truly save the day, and that’s refreshing, too. What would the world look like if Hollywood embraced middle age all the time?!
2. Antagonists Aren’t Always Necessary. Barb and Star has a strange antagonist out to destroy the paradise that is Vista Del Mar, because when she was a kid she was embarrassed at their Seafood Jam. It’s a flimsy and strange premise, and perhaps just an excuse for Kristin Wiig to pull a Mike Myers and play both the protagonist and antagonist and wear a whole lot of strange make-up? That said, it would have been just as thrilling to spend more time with Barb and Star together in this movie. They are the magic and chemistry and glue of the movie and whether it was studio notes to add more stakes or just a runaway idea, sometimes two compelling protagonists are enough and they don’t always need a strange antagonist who might easily sunburn to rain on their parade.
3. Genre Mashups Create Something New. Barb and Star is undefinable, and sometimes that’s a good thing. The film feels part buddy comedy, part vacation comedy, part romantic comedy, and part end of the world (which would, of course, occur in Florida). The bold color scheme, the random musical numbers, the alternate universe bad girl Sharon Gordon Fisherman lives in, the sad intercuts to Talking Club — much in Barb and Star is unexplainable, in its own timeline, and not really beholden to a strong plot structure. Barb and Star feels like what it might feel like to drop acid (not sure, haven’t done it) and have, overall, a pretty good trip. Honestly, what more could someone looking for an escape ask for?
4. Love Stories Don’t Have to Be Deep. When Jamie Dornan is the man candy for a wild, experimental comedy trip, it is a true joy to watch him fall madly and deeply for what feels like the most nontraditional person he could fall for in Vista Del Mar. But Dornan’s Edgar Pagét is a simple guy with a lot of love to give and who just wants to be loved in return. Star’s a widower and she’s happy to spend hours with Edgar doing a whole lot of, well, getting it on. Again, it’s nice to see a middle aged lady get what she wants when she wants it, even if there’s not much more to their relationship than sexual infatuation. As a crab who sounds like Samuel L. Jackson once said, "Love doesn’t come around that often." Enjoy it for what it is.
5. Can the Sequel Please Feature Trish. The film is doing what every studio hopes for: creating lots and lots of buzz on Twitter. People are pitching their own sequels left and right (because, gosh darn it, it’s fun to rhyme Barb and Star with so many things!) Check out @AWolfeful’s Twitter feed where she requests a sequel and gets gems like: Barb and Star Meet Babar, Barb and Star Steal Jerry Seinfeld’s Cars, and the apparent real pitch for a sequel from the film’s director, Josh Greenbaum: Barb and Star Go Very Far to Mars. No matter what, it would be great to get Trish (Reba McEntire) in there. Everyone needs a guardian spirit of some kind, and, maybe this time, she gets a full character arc!
Final Takeaway: Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar is slightly reminiscent of other movies that are a real trip, à la Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, but it’s also its own, undefinable thing — a good-time movie for the sake of it. And Barb and Star is a gem of a good time for all; the rarity of a magical treasure island cocktail meant to help you escape.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/