Director: Alex Richanbach
Cast: Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson, Richard Madden
Plot: Workaholic Harper (Jacobs) is sent to Barcelona for an important business meeting, to which her two party-hard best friends (Bayer, Robinson) tag along to, in order to get to Ibiza.
We are in an age where female led movies are all the rage. Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 are prime examples of women taking Hollywood by storm. However, there is also the question of: because you can do something, should you do it. I am more than happy for women to put their own spin on male-dominated genres, but they need to more intelligent than this helping from Netflix.
There is nothing wrong with the premise. Three girls head over to Ibiza and get wrapped up in the party scene. It feels like the female answer to American Pie or the Inbetweeners. The thought of seeing how femininity changes the tone of this genre is appealing in itself. Will the supporting male cast get reduced to shallow love interests? Will the love angles be seen as a soppy love story or will the girls aim for something more temporary as with certain male comedies of this ilk? However, while Ibiza probably were aiming for something like the Hangover, which took this crude humour and applied it to some original and interesting characters, Ibiza aims for the lower-brow side of the genre. This feels like women getting their hands on the American Pie B Movie spin-offs (Naked Mile, Book of Love), and recreating that with girls. The truth is most of those films are crap in themselves and not the best vehicle to express feminism. Therefore, as the story unfolds, you feel the steady sinking feeling that this movie is not going to achieve what you want it to. There is a vague story about how Gillian Jacobs shy PR agent needs to go to Spain to win over a client, but this is merely dressing to get a nervous twenty-something into the Ibiza clubs with her two wild, party pals. This film desperately needs some additional building blocks to go on top of this set-up. We want the three central women to hit some unusual characterisation as they go through the obstacles in the movie. We want a moment where a character beat is dropped that opens up a reading of that character. Hangover took its stereotypes and examined them as they went through the pressures of the night. The Inbetweeners broke new ground by shunning caricatures and showing honest portrayals of four anxious teenagers trapped in adolescence. While here, Gillian Jacobs has a flimsy arc where she learns to stand up to her abusive boss and chase the man of her dreams, it feels fairly routine. A bunch of clichés stapled together to give the jokes a purpose – a direction. The other two characters don’t have any purpose in the story other than to be funny. Phoebe Robinson is the street-wise one that keeps her head and is comfortable sleeping with anything she lays her eyes on. Vanessa Bayer (of SNL fame), is the wild one, not so much ditzy as plain odd. Her job is to come out with the outlandish remarks and the kind of zingers that the writers imagine will make her a fan favourite. She takes pills, heads to a gym at 4am and leaves a stranger a flirty voicemail. It may have been funny once on paper. Even Game of Throne’s Richard Madden, who one would imagine would be a saving grace for the film, feels hemmed in by the poor material. The characters drift through the story, never really becoming actual people. Merely sketches.
Which makes it all the more criminal that Ibiza is painfully unfunny. Films have sadly survived having the characterisation ripped out of it in the past by becoming guilty pleasures. Yeah, the film is daft and sexist, but, like the class joker, ends up making you smile and earning itself a small amount of forgiveness through being endearing. Ibiza has none of that. Perhaps with a sharper and more known cast, it could have worked. Harper may have been less irritating in the hands of Dakota Johnson or Anna Kendrick rather than the flat Gillian Jacobs, for instance. But other than the occasional joke, most of the humour here falls flat. The crudeness of the two best friends was probably an answer to the chauvinistic male heroes in past movies, but it feels off-putting here. Without any explanation, these girls are ready to sleep with strangers because they are on holiday. One girl even makes a joke about only flirting with older men. It is uncomfortable to comment on, because perhaps it is residual sexism on my part, where I cannot shake off that trope from my mind. However, other films have landed the female character who sleeps around without being judged by the audience, so it is more likely Ibiza hammering home the point with no subtlety whatsoever. The actresses also overplay the part. The grumpy boss character who crops up every now and again to remind everyone that there is a story is so over-dramatic that the fun is sucked right out of the scene. There might be an audience here. In being on Netflix, Ibiza can become that casual ‘there’s-nothing-else-on’ movie. However, it is hard to see another context where this film works. The actual island of Ibiza is taking legal action against the film for putting their city in a bad light. After watching the movie, one wonders why such a forgettable film is worth the hassle.
Final Verdict: Unfunny, unimportant and harming the ‘female-cast’ movement in the film world. Best left in the Netflix archives.