The joyous escape of ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’

Kristen Wig plays Star and Annie Mumolo plays Barb in ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.’
Cate Cameron

When Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig first teamed up to pen a film, the end result provided a huge step for women in comedy. ‘Bridesmaids’ was said to “set a new standard” for women in the comedic world, and now the dynamic duo is back together again for a bit of a lighter adventure.

‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ is bright, light and full of delightful cameos alongside some standout performances that you wouldn’t expect (in the form of one retired Mr. Grey aka Jamie Dornan.) The film—directed by Josh Greenbaum and starring Mumolo and Wiig—follows two best friends in a Bert and Ernie style living situation who decide to set their sites on taking a much-needed trip after their business goes under. What then happens is a forever turning carousel of events that brings the two delightfully oblivious women on an adventure that no one could have predicted—which is part of the fun and most of the point, according to one of the writers herself.

Mumolo sat down with Metro to discuss more on what went into making ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.’

Where did the idea for Barb and Star come from? 

Kristen and I, when we were at The Groundlings sketch comedy theater [in Los Angeles], we were always drawn to these middle-aged women characters, even when we were just in our early 20s. Then, when we wrote ‘Bridesmaids,’ we kind of discovered that we were always trying to work these characters into the movie as well. They didn’t really have anything to do with the storyline, so they were always getting cut, but one night we were loopy and having fun and being one of the mom characters, and Kristen said one day we’re going to write a movie based on these women. As time went on more, we realized they are very close to who we are as people—they are just who we are when we’re on the phone together in our private life. So it kind of all came from different places. 

How would you describe Barb and Star? What do you like about them? 

I think that I envy these characters, they’re characters who are a wish fulfillment for us. Barb and Star don’t censor their feelings or emotions and they don’t worry about what other people think about them. They take joy in the simple things that most of us take advantage of or take for granted. There’s an enviable aspect where I’d rather be one of them, you know? 

It took some time to make Barb and Star, what was that process like? 

Gosh, it was long. But, movies, in general, do typically take a long time to get made. You have to work on the script and get it to the place where somebody wants to make it, and put the money in and you have to find the right people for it and [hope] that they’re going to get it— otherwise you’ll spend eight years of your life on something that doesn’t work out. But mostly, all of that time is in writing and re-writing and re-writing and re-writing and knocking on doors, and getting a lot of rejection. It’s just a very hard process and you really have to believe in what you’re doing. It’s no joke. 

So, how many times does a script like that have to be re-written? 

It’s hard to say how many times exactly, but with the writing process itself, first you vomit out a first draft, and then you look at it and you’re refining it and fine-tuning it. With comedy, there are a lot of elements that you’re trying to make work so you kind of do layering. With the comedy aspect, at every sector, you’re trying to make it better and funnier and you’re finding different opportunities to try different things. It takes a lot of table reads to see what will work out, what people will respond too and what lands. Then when you get there in your environment, there are always different variables so you’re always rolling and changing with it. With this one, it was similar to ‘Bridesmaids’ where we did end up with what we [originally] set out to do, it just still goes through years of working on it. 

How was it stepping into an acting role for this film? 

It was really fun—it felt pretty natural and was one of the most natural [roles] I’ve stepped into. That may be because Kristen and I have such a natural love for these characters, but I was an actor before I was a writer, so it felt natural. But, you’re always scared and nervous because every creative thing that you do is a risk, you wonder is this working? You hope people like it, but Kristen and I have been doing stuff together for so long that part of it just felt fun. 

How was it working with Jamie Dornan? He really made his mark comedically on this film. 

It’s funny, because in order to do comedy, I feel like someone needs to be a really strong dramatic actor. You have to sell things in your performance that are not easy to sell and you have to be believable. So, I sometimes feel that dramatic actors can help make the best comedic actors—comedy is given this sort of bad rap where people think it’s just silly, but Jamie is the perfect example. [When casting] we talked to some people and they told us to look at his interviews and he was just so funny, we were hoping he would do it. When he said that he would, we were shocked. Then to have him explode with this comedic power—it was so much fun and the best experience. It was definitely a highlight, and as a person, he’s just so wonderful and kind. I can’t say enough about that guy. 

Pictured are Annie Mumolo as Barb, Jamie Dornan as Edgar, and Kristen Wiig as Star in ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.’ Cate Cameron

His musical number was fantastic. I wanted to talk more about the musical numbers— why add that in to the film?

Kristen and I are always leaning towards finding a place to put a musical number in. Sometimes it makes the cut with everybody and sometimes it doesn’t, we always mention it and we’re always wanting to do it. We worked with these awesome groups of guys at Beacon Street [Studios] for the numbers and we got out these songs and lyrics, it was very quick and we didn’t have a lot of time. But I always think it’s fun and a surprise in a movie, so we were hoping that it was going to make it in and our director [Josh Greenbaum] was just so good with how he directed it and it exceeded our expectations. 

Overall, what do you hope this movie brings for people?

I think we want people to forget for a bit that they are stuck in their houses and just to take a trip with us. Hopefully, you feel a sense of escape from your living room. Let’s face it, it’s been a year and it’s been very difficult and tragic. So, we’re just hoping to bring people some joy and take this trip with us for a little while as an escape. 

‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ is now available to stream everywhere you rent movies.