Monday, September 25, 2017

A concentrated dose of Bridget Everett

When I first saw Bridget Everett, she was wearing an outfit something like this. It wasn't this one, exactly -- in fact, it was a red dress that left as little to the imagination as this, but I couldn't find any stills I liked of that online so I went with this one instead.

It was as the closing act on an episode of Inside Amy Schumer, or possibly a Schumer concert movie, and it had what I'm sure was the intended effect on me. Bridget Everett is a confronting person. Her comedy is raunchy, her confidence is off the charts, and she's in on the joke. If Amy Schumer is supposed to be a knowing variation on the way women sell themselves as sex objects -- but one that shows she still has a fair bit of vanity and still wants to be considered sexy -- then Bridget Everett is the utterly vanity-free version of that. Oh, I'm sure Bridget Everett considers herself sexy -- with that kind of confidence, how could you not? -- but her very persona is about eschewing vanity. She's not "ladylike." She's not "a size six." She doesn't care if a dress makes her look good or if it functions purely as a prop in her in-your-face brand of do-anything-for-a-laugh comedy.

This discomfited me a bit. I didn't know what to make of her. We're used to being able to see someone perform and instantly categorize them as some version of a known commodity. And I'd like to say this was a good thing; the ideal me would definitely say that. The real me left with a funny taste in my mouth, one I couldn't quite reconcile.

This was maybe as long as a year ago -- heck, maybe longer. I didn't think of Bridget Everett again until I saw her in two movies this past weekend.

The first came Friday night. It was Eli Craig's follow-up to a favorite of mine from a few years back, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Little Evil, as this one's called, is a Netflix original horror-comedy that looks at an antichrist child -- think Damien in The Omen -- from the perspective of the boy's well-meaning stepdad. Adam Scott is that guy, Evangeline Lilly is his wife, and Bridget Everett is a fellow "stepdad" -- a lesbian woman playing the father role, so to speak, in the relationship with her new wife and her wife's daughter (or was it son? I can't remember).

When I saw Everett come on screen, I thought "I know that woman from somewhere." And then, after not too much longer: "Oh yeah, that was that woman gyrating and pulsating around in a red dress on Amy Schumer." Because I think the dress warrants some attention, here, I'll include one of those less-than-ideal pictures:

Although I'd not known what to make of Everett the first time around, a positive impression formed more quickly and more concretely this time. In Little Evil Everett makes for a truly distinctive entry in the age-old "funny best friend" trope. She constantly calls Scott's character "bro" and acts basically like a douchy guy for most of the movie -- a douche with a heart of gold, though. I wasn't sure I liked Everett on Amy Schumer but she was super likable here. She pulls that off without resorting to any of the usual softening tactics that make you like an edgy character. Everett gets to be likable on her own terms, without losing any of that edge. Her character's dialogue and actions are a constant surprise, and a good one at that.

The rehabilitation of Bridget Everett -- or rather, my comprehension of her value -- took another big step forward when I saw her turn up in Patti Cake$ on Sunday night. Here she plays the alcoholic train wreck of a mother to the title character, an oversized New Jersey girl named Patricia who wants to become a rapper (Danielle Macdonald). She's perfectly cast as the bawdy former singer who spends her evenings trying to relive past glories by drinking herself into oblivion and singing karaoke at the local bar.

What impressed me so much this time is not that she has great comic timing and can give turns of phrase her own distinctive spin, but that she can play drama, too. You wouldn't necessarily expect dramatic nuance from a woman who goes on stage and pulls her dress over her head, revealing her underwear, and knowing that this will be funny rather than sexy. But it's really there. There's real pain in this woman who didn't become a great rock 'n roll singer like she hoped, and now must try to get by on the meager support offered her by her 23-year-old daughter who tends that bar and does odd catering jobs. But there's also a bit of hidden menace, a bit of spiteful superiority, that suggests this woman could knock your block off too.

I'd say there's probably not a wide range of options for a comic actress who looks like Bridget Everett does, and Rebel Wilson has already kind of given us a template for the type of career a woman like this can have -- funny, but possessing sexuality that's the subject of slapstick humor more often that it is anything else.

But in these two very different roles, Everett has already given us a glimpse of her possible range. Sure, she can play a comedy sidekick MVP in a broad comedy, as Wilson would. But indie drama, which requires getting in touch with a real inner anguish, is also something she does with distinction.

More than anything she's memorable, which is becoming increasingly uncommon even with "pretty faces." You may not be sure what you think of Bridget Everett from one performance. But then watch another one, and you will be.

No comments: