Timing, as they say, is everything.
Some movies are barely noticed when they’re released, but 50 years later are regarded among cinema’s greatest. Others become immediate sensations because they belong to an exact moment in time and a set of circumstances no one could have predicted.
So it is with Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, a movie not born in the fires of our collective delirium, but one that instantly has been both engulfed by and fed into its flames. The movie was written by, and stars, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, in their long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Bridesmaids. Barb and Star work in a furniture store in Nebraska, apparently having never left their hometown for any reason, and they’re perfectly content. Tragically, their store closes, they lose their jobs, and they decide to do something totally crazy: They decide to go on vacation to Florida.
The movie very quickly announces how bizarre it will be, and you’re either on board or you’re not, it couldn’t possibly care less. Barb and Star come from the long tradition of comedic duos who live in their own world and could be extraordinarily irritating to the people around them, but who go through life happy as clams, because they have each other. It would be cruel to describe much of anything that happens, because the joy lies in the discovery—and it is true, unabashed joy, full of non-sequiturs, utter lunacy, and what must be the most jaw-dropping deus ex machina in the history of film.
Would this all be true if we weren’t a year into a pandemic? Well, yes, but I don’t think the film would quite inflame the ardor it has, or at least not as universally. But we cannot deny our experience, nor should we try. The stars have aligned, and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is unquestionably the movie for this moment. As one critic I follow said, there are people who won’t agree, but you don’t need those people in your life.