Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Funny Girl(s): Truly funny female movie characters

Actually, putting this together was harder than I anticipated, and certainly not because I don't find women funny or because there aren't a lot of very funny women in Hollywood.

That's not the problem. Instead, it's that when you browse any list of the truly great comedic roles, the sad fact is that most of them are played by men (the reverse, at least right now, is true on TV, but that's a different subject for a different day). It's just a fact, and one that we (or at least I) can't change, so instead of lingering on it, in honor of the funny women of "Bridesmaids," here are six very funny female roles from my movie shelf that I go back to often:

Tracy Flick, "Election"
Not exactly the cute Reese Witherspoon we know now, but her role in this high school battle of wits with the outmatched but game Matthew Broderick is her funniest one, and every time Tracy scrunches up her face in righteous anger, I still laugh out loud.

Marge Gunderson, "Fargo"
Not surprising, I suppose, that Joel Coen would write (along with his brother, of course) the best female character he's ever come up with for his wife, Frances McDormand. Marge, the very pregnant and just as clever police chief played by McDormand, gives the movie much of its sense of place, its strongest suit, and is just extremely funny along the way.

Annie Hall, "Annie Hall"
You can argue that even when he played opposite women his own age, Woody Allen didn't necessarily think much of them, because he made Annie Hall as hippie and dippy as possible, but thanks to Diane Keaton, hilarious, too.

Patricia Franchini, "Breathless"
Her French was truly atrocious (which provided much of the humor), but Jean Seberg goes toe to toe with Jean Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard's lighter-than-air gangster flick of sorts, and their flirting is just pure comedic bliss.

Poppy, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
The real charm of Sally Hawkins in this infectious Mike Leigh movie is that her Poppy is so thoroughly upbeat throughout that you want to either cheer for or choke her, depending on your outlook. In the end, it's a role so great it can melt even the most cynical of hearts, even mine.

Enid, "Ghost World"
Whatever happened to Thora Birch? Before she seemingly disappeared completely, she played Enid in this movie based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, a character who savagely skewers everything that's wrong in her world even as she searches for her own place in it.

And there you have it. A brief list, I know, but please feel free to add any I may have snubbed (there are many, many I'm sure) and go see "Bridesmaids" this weekend if you like to laugh with truly funny women.


Kevin said...

My favorite from your list is Marge Gunderson from “Fargo” (you betcha!). Since you invited others to offer additions, I took a look at my movie shelf. The one that jumped out at me was Miranda Priestly from “Devil Wears Prada” (because I think Meryl Streep should be on EVERY list). I would also like to submit Lesley Ann Warren’s Norma from “Victor/Victoria”. She was incredible in that role!

Reel Fanatic said...

Both great choices, Kevin ... I have to admit that it took me forever to see Devil Wears Prada simply because it looked so uninteresting, but as has happened many more times than one before, I was clearly wrong, and Streep was fantastic

jeremy said...

Mary in Party Girl, aka, Parker Posey's breakout role. Comedy gold, a truly great character and performance.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah yes, Jeremy, a real gem ... I don't know if you watch Parks and Recreation or not, but I think you probably do .. it was great to see her pop up on last week's episode ... and to top it all, she's a Baltimorean!

Kevin said...

I did not realize Parker Posey was from Baltimore. That makes me love her even more!