Screens: IFC

A Pink Rinse On Portlandia Helps Rehabilitate Olivia Wilde

And Hollywood Game Night helped, too.

You know, and I know, that the female performers who get the best comedy gigs are not always the funniest. And to be fair (sort of), in your lesser comedies, the roles for women aren't written to be funny anyway: if all you need is someone to wake up next to Ashton Kutcher on Two And A Half Men, it's more important that she be pretty than that she know how to deliver a punchline, so why not cast Hilary Duff? In recent years, I formed a deep antipathy toward one actress who seemed to keep taking those eye-candyish non-comedic comedy roles, but since it's a mark of maturity to be able to admit it when new evidence makes you revise old opinions, I have to confess: two recent TV outings have made me come around on Olivia Wilde.

I realize that Olivia Wilde was a famous person before she was Jason Sudeikis's girlfriend, so I can't blame nepotism for her Enemy Of Comedy roles in Year One, The Change-Up, Butter (and at least none of those was particularly funny outside of her participation, so it could never be fairly said that she ruined them or anything). But when she crapped up the (also undistinguished) Incredible Burt Wonderstone, it did feel like she'd been cast to pay back a favour to someone, and I dreaded the eventuality -- which felt inevitable -- when she would bring her tiny bag of pretty-girl comedy tricks to a hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live.

But in the last week, Wilde has really won me over. First, she appeared on Hollywood Game Night (with Sudeikis, but on opposite teams, as is the show's wont when couples are on together). Was she great at all the games? No. But she dressed appropriately, she put in a spirited effort, and this happened.

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I would probably even soften toward Evan Cantor if I saw him having a Clue-Boom-induced freakout.

Then Wilde popped up on the latest episode of Portlandia. In a multi-part sketch, Wilde plays a member of a guerrilla group fighting animal testing with aggressive, undeniable protests: they both hang banners and taunt the testers with large papier-mâché marionettes. So I guess they're less "undeniable" than they are "ineffective." But Wilde's nameless, pink-haired revolutionary has an idea for how to get more attention for the cause: she'll take her top off. There's not a lot to the sketch, but Wilde sells her part by (a) sending up her own image as the girl in a comedy who has no real function other than to be sexy, and (b) being completely deadpan and matter-of-fact about it. She keeps pitching her political toplessness even as her fellow protesters shoot her down -- "You can't just take your top off for us anymore," says Carrie Brownstein's character -- but once they figure out that their destiny might lie not in political action but in party entertainment, she gets to make it the grand finale after all.

Portlandia

You can't introduce a top in the first act without having it go off in the third.

Olivia Wilde will never be in the same league as Amy Poehler or Kathryn Hahn: granted. But she's figured out what her lane is and is getting pretty good at staying in it. So whenever that inevitable SNL gig comes along -- and it will, you know it will -- I guess it'll probably be okay.

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