People in the media continue to argue over whether "woman are funny" (OK, mostly Adam Carolla). But sift through the past decade of comedy and it's painfully obvious that when it comes to making us laugh, ladies can bring it. Hollywood is slowly latching onto this, pipelining more and more female-led projects with cross-gender appeal. The only problem is that most of them sideline what makes the actresses spark. A woman is either handed a generic romantic comedy in hopes they will elevate the material, or a high-concept vehicle with a meaty ensemble (Bridesmaids and 2013's Identity Thief fit in here). Can't a lady just be silly, stupid, and funny like their male counterparts?
Yes. Yes, they can. And yes, they should.
Sundance's midnight premiere slate is annually curated with the weirdest and wildest in independent film, and 2013 proved itself worthy with the Monday night premiere of Ass Backwards. Written by and starring Happy Endings star Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael (NTSF:SD:SUV), Ass Backwards tracks two happily delusional, life long friends in New York City — Chloe (Wilson) is a "rising star" dancing in a glass box at a club, while Kate (Raphael) is the CEO of her own egg donor company — as they hit the road to participate in a 50th anniversary beauty pageant. In their early days, Chloe and Kate were pageant losers, tying for last place after one particularly disastrous competition. Now they aim to redeem themselves — as long as they can actually drive themselves back home.
Ass Backwards is straightforward like a female-driven comedy is rarely allowed to be in big studio movies. The two friends are morons, and Wilson and Raphael never back down from acting like idiots in the name of landing a laugh. Like Dumb and Dumber, or even more appropriate, the last female-pairing to be this fearless in his desire for stupidity, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Ass Backwards pushes buttons and presents ridiculousness that's also familiar. These are the type of girls who sing along to a skipping CD recording of "Take on Me," swoon over the voice of their British GPS system, pay back the hospitality of a lesbian commune by handing out sexual favors, and get star struck when they meet a meth junkie from their favorite rehab reality show. Unbalanced, but relatable.
What makes Romy and Michele forever watchable, and why Ass Backwards could be a breakout hit when it eventually arrives in theaters, is that both sets of space case characters love their lives and love each other. Chloe and Kate face off in a sultry dancing competition at a local strip club and are routinely found squatting on the side of the road, but they're journey bubbles over with friendship. Everyone hates them — minus Chloe's Dad (Vincent D'Onofrio), who hands over every dime from his "backwards hat" store to his daughter — except for themselves. Making it impossible for us not to love them.
Wilson and Raphael have unique comedic voices, as crass as any male counterpart with strong female identity. They go big and physical with Ass Backwards, dressing their alter egos in over the top costumes (or "high fashion," as it's known in New York) and letting loose in a way that recalls the early days of Jim Carrey. It helps that Wilson and Raphael both come from sketch comedy (SNL and a handful of Adult Swim shows, respectively). They're well-versed in hyper-specific characters — and ones we want to spend more time with, just to see what trouble they weasel their ways into. Romy and Michele only returned for a subpar direct-to-DVD sequel. Let's hope Ass Backwards finds a big enough audience that we get a few more rounds with the lovable disasters Chloe and Kate.
[Photo Credit: Prominent Pictures]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches