Posted April 28, 2016
By SAMANTHA COHEN
There has been a pivotal change from the traditional roles female actresses have played in the past: the eye candy, dumb, trophy wife and so forth. But during the past year, female comedians have claimed the blockbuster comedy movie genre.
The comedy genre has always been a male-dominated genre. When you think of screwball comedies or war dramas, you’re bound to immediately think of men who have brought these stories to life, but Hollywood is finally shining a light on the funniest female comedians this movie season.
The summer of 2015 was named the “Summer of Female Comedy” and there have been no signs of this change slowing down in 2016. This spring has been loaded with some of the most captivating and unbelievably funny women including Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
During the past few months, Hollywood has rolled out a variety of movie comedies that are primarily all female lead roles. There has always been a debate whether or not females could be funny enough on screen to bring audience members into theaters and money into the box office. But they are proving that women comedians can deliver unbelievably funny performances with the same entertainment quality as their male counterparts.
Each female comic brings her own personal style to the movies they star in to create individual unique experiences for the viewer. There has become a holy trifecta of female actresses in comedy movies including: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Melissa McCarthy.
Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” is a feminist comedy that created a lot of buzz about the rise of female leads in comedy. She was able to take her unique style to portray a perpetual party girl who falls in love in a story that tackles gender stereotypes in relationships and life in general.
This spring’s movies, such as “The Boss,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” and “Sisters” all hit the big screen with the funniest leading ladies. Each movie has a different storyline with very different characters, but they all lead up to the same result– a theater filled with laughter.
“Whisky Tango Foxtrot,” starring lead Tina Fey, allowed her to break away from her traditional romantic comedy roles to play in this wartime comedy genre. She brought her witty comedic genius while also showing audience members that she has dramatic chops. Fey is best known for her roles on “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Mean Girls.” In this movie, Fey plays Kim Baker, a cable news writer who suddenly volunteers to go to Kabul, Afghanistan, as an on-screen reporter. Her three-month assignment turns into three years. Throughout the movie, audience members follow Kim’s journey of adjusting to wartime life. She hears gunshots and bombs exploding, she interviews warlords and she puts herself in life-threatening situations.
But we also see the other side of war among the diverse set of journalists who must cope with these intense situations. The film attempts to share the realistic chaos and horrors of war from a lighter and more humanized standpoint creating a dramatic comedy. The film is based on journalist, Kim Barker’s memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle.”
The movie has many mixed tones to it that creates a bit of confusion for the audience. It is not you typical pure comedy it is a wartime drama mixed in with war-zone humor including sexual references and substance used among the journalists. But what makes this movie different from the rest of the comedies out this season is that it leaves behind a message that war is filled with a variety of characters all of which must be brave and courageous and who must stay humorous in a time of darkness in order to get by.
Fey typically takes on the role of a sane person surrounded by insane people and situations. This film is a representation of that. Rather than fill the movie with one-liners Fey takes a more simplistic approach to her humor that allows for a more realistic character. Fey’s character was relatable, funny and heartwarming.
“Sisters” is a completely different role for Fey, who partners with Amy Poehler to create a dynamic duo. The characters each women play are opposite of what they typically play in other films. A previous film they partnered in “Baby Mama” showed just that. Poehler plays Maura the responsible sister who is a nurse and also a caring humanitarian. We saw this in the beginning of the film when she goes to offer sunscreen and life advice to a homeless looking guy and later finds out he is just a construction worker. This role would typically be played by Fey, but in “Sisters” she plays the role of Kate, a crazy irresponsible beautician who is a constant disappointment to her teenage daughter.
Opposed to Fey’s “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” this movie has no real concept and no clear meaning. But the lack of concept and substance in plotline is made up for in the comedic chemistry of both women. Both Fey and Poehler have been onscreen comedic partners for years and this familiarity helps create a relationship that feels like they are actually sisters. This characteristic definitely helps the movie.
The storyline revolves around the sisters finding out that their parents have sold their childhood home to move into a retirement condo. Both sisters are in charge of clearing out their childhood rooms before the movers come. While doing this, they decide to throw one last house party. Kate agrees to play the sober mom so she can let Maura have a crazy experience, which she lacked as a teenager.
The guest list includes hilarious, eclectic high school classmates, several of them SNL alums including Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynihan and Rachel Dratch. Others who make an appearance include John Cena who plays a drug dealer and Ike Barinholtz, “Hunky” neighbor who becomes a romantic interest of Maura. The movie is filled with silly crude jokes about drugs, sex and alcohol, which was seen slightly in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” as well. The party goes chaotic and everything that could possibly go wrong does.
“The Boss” is another nonsense movie with a hilarious lead Melissa McCarthy. McCartney plays Michelle Darnell, an investment guru who preaches about her personal riches. Like “Sisters,” the movie isn’t a high quality film but what makes it so appealing to audience members are the known female leads and the hilarious jokes.
McCarthy fills the movie with her pure physical comedy, which we have seen in her previous roles such as in “Bridesmaids.” We see this physical comedy in the movie when she throws her body around, tumbling down a flight of stairs and getting ejected off a sofa bed. This type of comedy is what separates her from the rest of her fellow comedians.
Like Fey and Poehler, McCarthy’s her natural screen presence and comedic timing makes up for the lack of filmmaking. The movie follows Michelle as she goes from riches to prison and the life-changing stay with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell). Michelle stays cramped in Claire’s tiny apartment that she lives in with her daughter Rachel.
The movie is quite chaotic and runs in different directions with its content. The film tries to touch upon an underlying theme of female self-reliance. This is interesting because McCarthy not only starred in the movie, but also wrote and produced it as well.
Michelle reluctantly agrees to attend Rachel’s Girl Scout-like group meeting. She comes up with the idea to start a rival group, ”Darnell’s Darlings,” that will sell Claire’s home-baked brownies. This creates a huge rivalry between both groups that leads to one of the standout scenes in the movie. The majority of the humor comes from McCarthy’s character using profane insults whenever she can. McCarthy seemed to have to carry the entire movie herself. Without her, the movie all together would be a flop.
Overall this spring women are continuing to dominate in the box office and prove that they can stand with the rest of their male counterparts in the comedy genre. Each individual comedian is bringing their own unique style and applying it to the roles they play to create exciting innovative roles we might not have seen in the past.
- Movie: “The Boss”
- Director: Ben Falcone
- Release date: April 8, 2016
- Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage and Kathy Bates
- Run time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Review rating: 2 out of 5
- Movie: “Whisky Tango Foxtrot”
- Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
- Release date: March 4, 2016
- Stars: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton
- Run time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Review rating: 3 out of 5
- Movie: “Sisters”
- Director: Jason Moore
- Release date: Dec. 18, 2015
- Stars: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Cena, Bobby Moynihan
- Run time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Review rating: 4 out of 5