PARK CITY, UTAH—I saw the movie Austenland Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, and I found it to be charming and funny — it's about a Mr. Darcy-obsessed nerd (Keri Russell) who decides to change her life by going on a Jane Austen Experience vacation. The supporting cast was strong; Bret McKenzie, JJ Feild, James Callis, and Jennifer Coolidge brought characters that could have been flat and ridiculous to life.
I have plenty of thoughts about the movie as a whole, but as I watched, I kept returning to two big ones: WHY IS JENNIFER COOLIDGE SO FUNNY? And: WHY HAS SHE NEVER BEEN A COMEDY LEAD? Obviously, she works all the time, and does great. But still. Why is there NOT MORE COOLIDGE?
Here are some of her most notable moments.
1) "Seinfeld" (1993)
Coolidge's first credit in IMDb is Seinfeld. Did you know that? I did not. In the fifth season episode "The Masseuse," she played Jerry's massage-therapist girlfriend who won't give him a massage. (N.B. In the clip above, Jerry tries to trick her into giving him a massage, and when she won't, there's a whole "no means no"/"I don't submit to forcible massage" shtick. Rape jokes from the 90s! I thought they were a more recent phenomenon. Yikes.)
2) "American Pie" (1999)
While I certainly don't begrudge Coolidge (or anyone) mainstream success, the "Stifler's Mom" character — a bodacious Mrs. Robinson-type — is the kind of attention-getting standout in a big hit movie that can typecast an actor forever. Which it sort of has; even her Austenland role is oversexed. But this movie made Coolidge recognizable, and that's a good thing.
3) "Best in Show" (2000)
God, this movie is so funny. "We both love soup." There should be a Christopher Guest movie released every three months.
Here's another clip from Best in Show; I would like to see a sequel based on Coolidge and Jane Lynch's Sapphic characters.
4) "Legally Blonde" (2001)
A classic Legally Blonde scene, the Bend and Snap; Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods teaches Coolidge's character, Paulette, the shy manicurist, how to get a man's attention.
5) "A Mighty Wind" (2003)
She doesn't have a line in this 25-second scene, but I just laughed out loud re-watching it anyway.
Her accent, as an Eastern European publicist, is just amazing:
6) "2 Broke Girls" (now)
She uses the same accent on 2 Broke Girls as the lead characters' Polish neighbor. I don't watch this show regularly because it often drives me crazy — but they had the good taste to cast her.